PSALM lxxxix. 48.- What man is he that liveth, and
shall not see death, etc.
IT is very hard to determine, where all that are here
shall be within thirty years; for even ere that time come, many, if not all, of
us who are here, shall have taken up our everlasting lodging. And whether we
shall take it up in the eternity of joy, or in the eternity of pain, is also
hard to determine; only this one thing I am sure of, that all of us shall
shortly be gone; and ere long the shadows of death shall be sitting upon our
eye-lids, and our eye-strings shall begin to break. Therefore, I would the more
seriously inquire at you, what would you think if death were approaching this
night unto you? Think ye that Jesus Christ is gone up to prepare a place for
you, even for you? Surely, I think we are all near to eternity, and there are
some hearing me to-day, whom I defy the world to assure that ever they shall
hear another sermon : therefore, I entreat you all to hear this preaching, as
if it were the last preaching that ever ye should hear; and 0 that we would
speak it, as if it were the last sermon that ever we would preach unto you.
Believe me, death is another thing than we take it to be. Oh! what will many of
us do in the day of our visitation, when desolation shall come from afar? Where
will we flee for rest ? and where will we leave our glory? Old rich men, where
will ye flee when death assaults you? Old poor men, where will ye flee when
death assaults you ? Old women, where will ye flee when death assaults you?
Young women, where will ye flee when death assaults you? It was an ancient
observation of David, Psalm xxxix. 5, that God had made his clays as an
hand-breadth. This either may relate to the fourfold state of man, viz. :-his
infancy, his childhood, his manhood, and his old age;-or it may relate to the
four. fold time of his life, viz. -his morning, his forenoon, his afternoon,
and his evening; yet all our lifetime is but a day. And 0 think ye not that our
day is near unto a close.
Now, before that I begin to speak anything from
the words, I shall speak a few things to these two questions, which, I
conceive, may not altogether be unprofitable.
Quest. 1. Whether is
it lawful for any to desire to die, and return unto their long and endless
home? Whether it be lawful for one to cry out, 0 time, time, flee away, (and
all my shadows let them be gone) that so long eternity may come?
Ans. I say, it is lawful in some cases for one to desire to die; for it
was Paul's desire, Philip. i. 23, " I am in a strait betwixt two, having a
desire to depart, and to be with Christ, which is far better :" and 2nd Cor. v.
2, "We groan earnestly, desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is
from heaven." I long greatly till the twenty-first year of my age come, when my
minority shall be overpast, that I may be entered heir to that matchless
inheritance. But to clear in what cases it is lawful to desire to die.
say, it is lawful to desire to die, when it floweth from a desire of
uninterrupted fellowship and communion with Christ, and conjunction with him ;
this is clear, 2nd Cor. v. 6, " Knowing that whilst we are at home in the body,
we are absent from the Lord."
Therefore, verse 8, " We are willing rather
to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord." Also, it is
clear, Philip. i. 23, "I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart,
and to be with Christ, which is far better." It was his great end to have near
and unmixed communion with Christ. What aileth you, Paul, (might one have said)
may ye not be content to stay a while here? Nay, saith Paul, I desire to be
gone, and to be with Christ. Wast thou never with him here, Paul ? I have been
with him, saith he; but what is all my being with him here, in comparison of my
being with him above:- Whilst l am present in the body, I am absent from the
Lord: therefore, I will never be at rest, saith he, get what I will, until I
get Christ ; until I get those naked and immediate embracements of that noble
plant of renown, the flower of the stock of Jesse, who is the light of the
higher house,-the eternal admiration of angels.
2. It is lawful to desire
to die, when it floweth from the excellencies of heaven -from a desire to
partake of those excellent things that are there; this is clear, 2nd Cor. v. 4,
We groan, being burdened; or, as the word is, We groan, as they who are pressed
under a heavy burden, that ne may be clothed upon, &c. Wlnat aileth you to
groan so, Paul? 0 ! saith he, I groan that mortality may be swallowed up of
3. It is lawful to desire to die, when it floweth from a desire to be
saved from the body of death ; and from those temptations that assault us; and
from those oppressions whereunto we are subject by it. Doubtless, Paul desired
to die on this account, when he cried out, Rom. vii. 24, 0 wretched man that I
am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death! He longeth greatly for
that day, wherein he shall be made white like the wings of a dove, covered with
silver, those feathers are of yellow gold. Oh ! saith Paul, I am as one
impatient till I be above, where I shall be clothed with those excellent and
cleanly robes, the righteousness of Christ. Oh! saith Paul, I think every day a
year till I be possessed of that kingdom where Satan cannot tempt, and the
creature cannot yield, and where I shall be free from all my fears of sinning.
Now, in all these respects, who would not desire to die? But to guard all
these, I would give you these four cautions -
1st Caution. Your
desire to die should not be peremptory, but ye should desire to die with
submission to the will of God; so that although he would fill up fifteen years
more to your life, ye should be content to live it out.
'When your desires are hasty, and off hand, suspect them; for some, when they
meet with an outward cross, without any deliberation, will cry out, 0 to be
gone, 0 that I were dead! But your desire to die should be deliberate, but not
hasty, or rash.
3d Caution. It is not lawful to desire to die,
because of personal afflictions. Many, when they meet with bitter afflictions,
will cry out, 0 to be gone: they long for death even upon that account; such
was Job's desire, chap. vi. verse 8, 9, 0 that I might have my request ! even
that it would please God to destroy me. This desire was very unlawful.
4th Caution. It is not lawful to desire to die, when thy predominant
idol is taken away from thee ; yet such was Jonah's desire, chap. iv. 3, Jonah
thought his credit and reputation (which was his idol) was gone, and could
never be regained; therefore, he wished to die. But I would say this to you,
that some will have ten desires for death, when they have not one desire for
heaven. And what moveth Christians to be so desirous to die ? It is not so much
because of their hope, as because of their anxiety : it is not so much because
of their confidence, as because of their impatience. But I say unto you, when
your desires of death are not accompanied with desires of heaven, suspect them.
2. I would say this, that there are some who will have ten desires for
death, wheu they will not have one for the death of the body of death ; but it
were good for thee, who are such, to be desiring the death of the body of
death, then shouldst thou be in a more suitable frame to desire to die.
Some will have hearty desires to die, and yet when death cometh, they will be
as unwilling to die as any. It hath been observed, that some who have much
desire to die, when death came, have cried out, 0 spare a little, that I may
recover strength, &c.;There is a great difference between a desire to die,
and death itself. It is an easy thing to desire to die, but it is a very great
business to meet with death, and to look it in the face when it cometh. We
think death (ere it come near us) to be but children's play, but when we meet
with it, it maketh us change our thoughts, for it is a great business to die,
Quest. 2d. Is it lawful for a Christian to desire to live when he is
summoned to die?
Ans. In some cases, it is lawful for a Christian to
desire to live, even when he is summoned to die, which is clear from the
practice of David, Psalm xxxix. 13, where he prayeth, that the Lord would spare
him a little. It is also clear from the practice of good Hezekiah, isa.
xxxviii. 3, when he was commanded to set his house in order, for he should die,
and not live, he crieth out, Remember me, O Lord,' I have walked before thee in
truth, and with a perfect heart; and have done that which is good in thy sight;
and Hezekiah wept sore; or, as the words are in the original, he wept with
great weeping. But to guard this, take these two cautions
1st. Thy desire to live, when thou art summoned to die, should not be
peremptory, but with submission to the will of God, that if it be his pleasure
to remove thee presently out of time, thou shouldst be content to die.
Caution 2nd. Thy desire to live should have gracious principles, and
also a very gracious end ; as is most clear from David, Psalm xxxix. 13, where
he saith, 0 spare me a little, that I may recover strength, before I go hence,
and be no more. His desire to live was, that he might have victory over his
idols ; as if he had said, my desire to live is, that I may have strength to
wrestle with, and overcome my idols. And without all controversy, Hezekiah's
desire was a most precious and well.grounded desire. however, I would say this
unto thee, that thou shouldst examine thy desires to live, as much, (if not
more,) as thy desires to die ; for we are ready to shun death, if we could; but
he is that universal King, unto whom all of us must be subject ere long.
Now in the words which are read unto you, there are these six things, which
might be clearly observed from them.
1. First, That it is a most
clear and infallible truth, that all persons shall once see death, as is clear
in these words, who is he that liveth, and shall not see death?
Secondly, That this truth (that we shall once see death) is not much
believed or thought upon by many : therefore it is that the Psalmist doubleth
the assertion, What man is he that liveth, and shall not see death? shall he
deliver his soul (that is his life)from the hand, that is, from the power of
3. Thirdly, That sometimes a Christian may win to the
solid faith of this truth, that once he must die ; this the Psalmist got unto,
as it is also clear in that word -Who is he that liveth, and shall not see
4. Fourthly, That the certainty of this, that once we shall
die, should be still kept in our mind; therefore, that note of attention,
Selah, is put to it: as if he had said, take heed, that there is none living
that shalt not die.
5. Fifthly, That howbeit some persons put the
evil day far away, as if they were not to see death ; yet is the day coming
when they shall see death, and death shall take them by the hand.
Sixthly, We shall take notice of this from the context, that the Christian,
who is much in minding the brevity of his life, will believe the certainty of
his death : the Psalmist was speaking of the shortness of his life in the
preceding verse, and, in this verse, he speaketh of the certainty of death.
Now, as for the First of these things observed, viz, : -That it is certain and
sure that we shall all once die, I hope there are none of you here who will
deny; although I confess, some of you believe what was said by the woman of
Tekoah, 2d Sam. xiv. 14, We must all die, and be like water spilt upon the
ground, that cannot be gathered up again. God doth not except the person of
any. And Job xxx. 23, I know that thou wilt bring me to death, and to the house
appointed for all living. And it is very clear, Eccles. viii. 8, There is no
man that hath power over the spirit, to retain the spirit; neither hath he
power in the day of death : and there i.e no discharge in that war, neither
shall wickedness deliver those that are given to it. It is clear, Heb. ix. 27,
It is appointed unto men once to die. So that it is most clear that we must
die. I remember of one Philip, king of Macedonia, who had a substitute for this
very end, to cry at his chamber-door every morning, Memento mori, memento
niori, memento moi i, Remember thou art to die. And it is reported to have been
the practice of the nobles of Greece, in the day whereon their emperor was
crowned, that they presented a marble stone unto him ; and he was asked, after
what fashion he would have his tombstone made?-which practice speaks forth this
unto us, that although these were most destitute of the light of the Scripture,
they were very mindful of death Believe me, death may surprise us before we be
aware: for it is most certain that we must die ; but there is nothing more
uncertain than the way how, and the time when, we shall die.
surprise some, as it did Abel in the open field, Gen. iv. 8. Death will
surprise some, as it did Eglon in his parlour, Judges, iii. 21. And death will
surprise some, as it did Saul and Jonathan in the fight, 1st Sam. xxxi.
Now, in speaking to this point, I shall, First, speak a little to those
advantages which attend those that live within continual sight of death.
Secondly, I shall give you some considerations to press you to prepare for
death. Thirdly, I shall give you some directions to help you to prepare for
death ; and then we shall proceed unto the Second point of doctrine, which we
observed from the text; and I shall speak a few things from it unto you, and so
come to a close for this time.
First then, We conceive there are
these seven advantages which attendl those who live within the continual sight
of this truth, that they must die.
1. First, The faith of approaching death
will make a soul exceedingly diligent in duty; this was our blessed Lord's
divinity, John ix. 4, I must work the work of him that sent me, while it is
day; the night cometh when no man can work; that is. death is approaching,
therefore, I must work. It is clear also, 2nd Pet. i. 12, compared with verse
14. In the 12th verse, Peter is exceedingly diligent in his duty, and the
ground of his diligence in the 14th verse, Knowing that shortly I must put off
this my tabernacle. &c. Yea, it is even the epicure's argument, Let us eat
and drink, for to morrow we shall die. And should not the Christian much more
cry out, Let me watch and pray, for to-morrow I may die? I say, if the epicures
did make use of this notion, to make them vigorous in the pursuit of their
pleasures, 0 how much more should a Christian improve it, for making him
vigorous in the pursuit of' his duty ? There ore, I say unto you all, 0 be ye
diligent, for your iight is drawin near. 0 Christians, and expectants of
heaven, are ye afraid st ye be benighted before ye have walked the half of your
journey? For if ye be benighted on your journey to heaven, before ye come to
the end of y6~ir race, there is no retiring place whereunto ye may turn aside
to lodge. Therefore, 0 work, work, work, while it is day; for behold death is
approaching, and then we shall all be called to an account.
2. The faith of
approaching death, will make a Christian exceedingly active in duty; he will
not only be diligent, but also exceedingly serious, and zealous in the exercise
of his duty: this is clear from that notable exhortation, Eccles. ix. 10,
Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with all thy might; and the reason is,
for it? "- is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave,
whither thou goest. Wherefore, 0 be active, while ye are alive, for ye shall
never work any more after ye are dead; and if ye leave but one work undone,
there is no doing of it after death. There is no work (saith Solomon) in the
grave: therefore, 0 be active.
3. The faith of this truth, that we must all
die, will help a Christian to be exceedingly mortified to the things of a
present world. Oh I covetous men and women, would ye shake hands with cold
death but once every morning, I should defy you to pursue the world so much as
ye do. Paul was much in the meditation of his change, which made him, 2nd Cor.
iv. 18, to overlook those things that are temporary, While we look not (saith
he) at the things which are seen, which are temporal; but at the things which
are not seen, which are eternal: therefore, chapter v. 1, 2, Knowing, that if
our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God,
an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens : therefore, in this, we
groan earnestly, desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from
heaven. What aileth you. Paul, (might one have said) may ye not take a look of
the world? No, saith he, for I know that if the earthly house of this
tabernacle were dissolved, I have a house with God, not made with hands, but
eternal in the heavens: that is, I know that ere long the pins of. my
tabernacle will be loosed, and it will fall down about my ears ; therefore, I
must look for another dwelling house. And 1st Cor. vii. 31, The fashion of this
world passeth away : therefore, saith he, verse 32, I would have you without
carefulness, caring how to please the Lord: and Philip. iv. 5, Let your
moderation be known unto all men: the Lord is at hand ;-as if he had said,
death is approaching, and at hand ; therefore, I entreat you, be sober. But I
think many of us will be found like Saul, hid among the stuff; that is, we will
be lying amongst the midst of the pleasures of this passing world. But I say
unto thee, who art such a one, that death will break the strings of thy harp
thy music will quickly cease. 0 but death will make thee have a low esteem of
the world. O blessed is the person who hath these thoughts of the world all
along his way, which he shall have of it at death ! Have not the most cursed
wretches been forced to cry out, Oh ! I would give ten thousand worlds for
Christ? Have not some persons (who have had the moon upon their head, and who
have made their belly their god,) been forced to cry out at death, 0 cursed
person that I am, that ever made the world my God? Alas! that I contented
myself with the world. Therefore, I say unto thee, who art such a one, O stay
thy pursuit after the world, for death is approaching, that will cause all thy
worldly comforts to evanish.
4. When a Christian believeth this truth, that
he must die, it will be an exceeding great restraint to keep him from sinning,
as is clear, Job. xxxi. 13, compared with verse 14, where Job, reckoning over
many good deeds done by himself, saith, What then shall I do when God ariseth
up? and when he visiteth, what shall I answer him? As if he had said, sirs,
mistake me not, I am not boasting much of myself, for I could not have done
otherwise, else what should I do when God riseth up? How could I answer to God,
if I had done otherwise? I think it were a notable practice of each of you to
say, 0 temptation, what will I answer to God when he riseth up to reprove me,
if I should yield unto thee likewise, Eccles. xi. 9, where Solomon, dissuading
young men to pursue after their vanity, bringeth this as a reason, know ye,
that for all these things God will bring you into judgment. Therefore, I say
unto thee, who art often tempted to sin, let death and reckoning with God be
still in thy sight, and I defy thee to embrace half so many temptations, as now
thou doest. I entreat you to answer all your temptations with that word, What
shall when he visiteth me?
5. When a Christian liveth within the sight of
this truth, that he shall once see death, it will make him exceedingly patient
under every cross wherewith he meeteth. Such a Christian will hardly meet with
a cross, but he will quiet himself with this:- death will put me beyond this
cross,- this is but a cloud that will quickly pass away : and for this cause
did David so composedly put up that desire, Psalm xxxix. 4, Lord, make me to
know mine end, and the measure of my days. He was sure that the knowledge of
his end would put him in a sober and patient frame.
6. The Sixth advantage
is this - the faith of approaching death will teach the person that hath it, to
study saving wisdom; this is clear, Psalm xc. 12, where Moses putteth up his
request, so teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto
wisdom: as if he had said, I will never think myself wise, till I know that
blessed part of arithmetic, how to number my days. I desire every one of you
all to think with yourself every morning when you rise, Now I am a day nearer
unto eternity than I was before; and at the end of every hour, Now I am an hour
nearer unto eternity than I was before. I say, think often, yea, always thus -
I was never so near my death as I am now; for, oh ! are we not all nearer unto
eternity to.day, than we were yesterday?
7. The Seventh advantage attending
the faith of approaching death, is this, that it will make a Christian very
careful in preparing for death. It is impossible for one to believe really that
death is approaching, and not to prepare for it. Say what ye will, if ye be not
careful in preparing for death, ye have not the solid faith of this truth, that
ye shall die. Believe me, it is not every one that thinketh he believeth this
truth, that believeth it indeed. And 0 how dreadful is it for an unprepared man
to meet with death? He desireth not to die, yea, he would give a world for his
life; but die he must, whether he will or not: for death will not be requested
to spare a little when he cometh. And therefore, I say unto you all, set your
house in order, for ye shall surely die. All men and women, set your house in
order, for tomorrow ye may die, and he cut of in the flower of your age. Think
not that there are many can sell time; for I say, ye shall never get time sold
unto you. Alas! I fear that the most part of persons that die now, death
findeth them at unawares; for indeed the persons that die amongst us, when we
come to visit them, we may give you a sad account of them, for we think they
are comprehended under these four sorts:
1. First, When we go to
visit some persons on their death-beds, they are like unto Nabal,-their heart
is dying and sinking (like unto a stone) within them; they are no more affected
with death, than if it were a fancy ;-alas! for the great stupidity that hath
overtaken many: therefore, I entreat you, delay not your repentance till death,
lest the Lord take away your wit, so that ye cannot repent for your
senselessness, and stupid frame of spirit.
2. A Second sort we find
in a presumptuous frame, saying, they have had a good hope all their days, and
they will not quit it now; they will go down to their grave with their hope in
their right hand, or rather they will go down to the grave with a lie in their
right hand; they live in a presumptuous frame, and they die in the same
delusion. For when we tell them, by all probability they are going down to
hell, they answer, God forbid, I was all my time a very honest man, or woman;
but I love not that confession, for there are many such honest men and women in
hell this day.
3. The Third sort we find having some convictions
that they have been playing the fool all their days; but we can get them no
further. I shall only say to such, to go down to the grave with convictions in
their breasts, not making use of Christ, is to go down to hell with a candle in
their hand, to let them see the way; and truly the greatest part that die, die
in that manner.
4. Fourthly, There are some whom we find in a
self-righteous frame, resting upon the covenant of works, and their own merits,
and trusting by these to go to heaven; yet neglecting the offer of Christ's
righteousness. But, alas! we find not one of a thousand of this frame-I desire
to be dissolved, and to be with Christ, which is best of all; and scarce do we
find any in such a frame-O wretched man that I am, who shall delicer me from
the body of this death? Therefore, I say this unto you all who are here, 0!
will ye mind death, before it take hold on you? Oh! mind your work now; for ye
will find that death will be work enough for itself, though ye leave no work
8. The Eighth advantage that attendeth the Christian in
believing this truth, that once he must die, is this,- death will not be so
terrible to him as it is unto many when it cometh. What, think ye, maketh death
a king of terrors? What maketh many to shake as the leaf of a tree, when they
are summoned to appear before God's tribunal? It is even because of this,- they
have not been thinking of death before it came, so as to prepare for it. And I
fear many in this place may be afraid of death, and that, when it cometh to
them, they will say unto death, as Ahab said to Elijah, hast thou found me, 0
mine enemy? Surely death will take you, and bring you to the judgment-seat of
Christ; therefore, study by all means to think often upon it, and make ready
for it; believe me, death is a very big word, for it will once make you stand
with horror in your souls, if your peace be not made up with God. I know not a
more dreadful dispensation than death and a guilty conscience meeting
The Second thing that I shall speak unto from this first
observation, viz., This is a most certain and infallible truth, that all
persons shall once see death- shall be to give you some considerations for
pressing you to prepare for death.
The first consideration is this, to die
well and in the Lord, is a most difficult work ; therefore I entreat you to
prepare for death. It is a difficult work to communicate aright; it is a
difficult work to pray aright; and it is a difficult work to confer aright ;
but I must tell you, it is a still more difficult work to die aright than any
of these. It is true, it is more difficult to communicate aright than to pray
aright, yet it is much more difficult to die aright than to communicate aright,
for it is a more difficult work to die in the Lord, Death will put the most
accurate Christian that is here to a wonderful search: and therefore I will
tell you of nine things that death will try in thee;
1. Death will
try both the reality and strength of thy faith. It may be easy for thee to keep
up faith under many difficulties, but death will put thy faith to the greatest
stress that ever it did meet with. Yea, know this, that the faith of the
strongest believer may get (and ordinarily doth get) a set at death, the like
whereof it never got before: therefore prepare for death.
will try thy love to God: some persons pretend much love to him, hut death will
propose this question to such a person, Lovest thou him more than these? Lovest
thou him more than. thy wife, more than thy house, more than thy friends? But
your unwillingness to die, giveth much ground to fear that many have little
love to Christ, but much to the world, and so dare not answer the question,
Lord thou knowest that I love thee?
3. Death will try thine
enjoyments; some of you may be ready to think that ye meet with many
enjoyments, so that ye may reckon (as you think) to forty enjoyments and sweet
out-lettings; but beware that death bring them not down to twenty: I have known
some, who thought they have met forty times with God, but when death came, it
made them take down the account to the half; therefore seeing death will try
the reality of thine enjoyments, 0 prepare for it.
4. Death will try
thy patience. Thou mayest seem to have much patience now, but when death cometh
(and thou art put to die) it will put thy patience to a great trial; therefore
prepare for it.
5. Death will try the reality of thy duties, yea,
even those duties wherein thou had most satisfaction, as thy communicating
aright in such a place; thou hopest that is sure; thy reading the scripture at
such a time aright, thou hopest that is sure; thou prayedst at such a time
aright, and hopest that is sure; thou didst meditate in such a place aright,
and hopest that is sure ; but (believe me) death may make thee change thy
thoughts; for there are some persons who have communicated, and prayed, &c.
as right as any in this generation, who (for all that) will not find six duties
wherein they can find satisfaction at death ; therefore our need is great to
prepare for it.
6. Death will exceedingly try thy sincerity when it
cometh -an hypocrite may go all along his whole way undiscovered, yet death may
bring him to light, and make him appear what man he is.
will discover unto thee many hid and secret sins of which thou never hadst a
thought before; yet, albeit thou thoughtest these had been forgotten, death
will let thee see them standing between thee and the light of His countenance.
8. Death will accurately try the mortification - some will think
they have come a great length in mortification; but (believe me) death will try
it, and put it to the touch-stone.
9. Death will try thy hope,
whether it be real or not. I shall only say this, that all the other graces
must lower the sail to faith, and so it is faith must carry us through, being
that last triumphing grace, which must fit us for the field, when all the other
graces will faint and lie by. It is faith that must enter us fairly within the
borders of eternity; it is faith must gain-stand all the temptations of death,
yea, all the other graces must (as it were) stand by, and see faith strike the
last stroke in the war.
II. The second consideration to press you to
mind death, is this, that ye are to die but once, and the wrong doing of which
can never be helped; if ye pray not aright, ye may get that mended; if ye
meditate not aright, ye may get that mended; and if ye communicate not aright,
ye may get that mended: but alas! if ye die not aright, there is no mending of
that; therefore 0 prepare for death, that ye may die well, seeing ye are to die
III. The third consideration to press you to mind death,
is this, that they are pronounced blessed who die in the Lord, Rev. xiv. 13,
Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord. 0 let that provoke you to prepare
for death, that so ye may die in the Lord; that is the the only way to make you
eternally happy. I confess it is a question difficult to determine, whether it
be more difficult to die well or to live well ? I shall not answer it, but
rather desire you to study both.
IV. The fourth consideration to
press you to prepare for death, is this, viz. That though thou put all thy
works by thy hand before death, yet shalt thou find that death shall have work
enough for itself, yea, as much as thou shalt get done. It will then be much
for thee to win to patience; it will be much for thee to win to the sight of
thy justification; and then it will be much more for thee to win to assurance.
0 ! then is it not needful for thee to put all thy work by hand before thy
latter end come? Wherefore I may say to you, as Moses said in his song, Deut.
xxxii. 29, 0 that they were wise, that they understood this, that they would
consider their latter end! 0 that ye had this piece of divine wisdom! I pray
you consider that sad word, Lam. i. 9, She remembereth not her last end; and
what of it? therefore she came down wonderfully. So will the down-coming of
many in this generation be wonderful, who consider not their last end.
V. The fifth consideration for pressing you to prepare for death, is
this, viz. That their labour shall end, but their works shall not be forgotten,
as is clear from that forecited place, Rev. xiv. 13. They rest from their
labours, and their works do follow them: and is not that a glorious
VI. The sixth consideration to press you to prepare for
death, is this, viz. That death may come upon you ere ye be aware; ye know not
but death may surprise you this night before ye go home to your houses; and
therefore let that press you to study a constant preparation for death.
VII. The seventh consideration to press you to prepare for death, is this,
viz. That as death leaveth you, so will judgment find you; If death shall leave
you strangers to Christ, ye shall appear before him strangers to him: therefore
I entreat you all to prepare for it. I think that noble practice of Paul
exceeding worthy of imitation, I Cor. xv. 31, 1 die daily. Which, I think, doth
comprehend these three things :-
1. That Paul had death always in his sight.
2. It comprehendeth this, that he endeavoured to keep such a frame as every
moment he should be ready to die; so that whensoever death should put a summons
in his hand, he would be content to answer.
3. It comprehendeth this, that
he laboureth to lay aside and remove all things out of the way, that might
detain him from laying down his tabernacle. 0 ! saith Paul, I labour to clear
myself from all hindrances, as that whenever I shall be summoned to remove out
of time, I may willingly lay down my life. Therefore I would ask you this
question, viz. When shall you make your last testament? I think it were
suitable for us to be renewing our latter-will every day: for in so doing, Paul
made an excellent testament, the better of which none that died since have
made, 2 Tim. iv. 7, 8, I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I
have kept the faith: these are very sweet articles; and then he added,
henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord,
the righteous judge, shall give sue at that day. And think ye not that very
sweet, that ye would leave something unto you in Christ's name? viz. And that
not for me only, but for all them that wait for his appearance.
Now I come
to the third thing proposed, viz. To give some directions for helping you to
prepare for death.
Direct. 1. I entreat you be much in preparation
for death every day, for it is even a preparation for heaven, to be taking a
sight of your grave and latter-end every day.
Direct. 2. I entreat
you be much in these duties;
First, In self-examination ; that your counts
may be clear with God, for many a ragged count shall we have when death and we
Secondly, Be much in the exercise of repentance, that so ye may
have every fault and corruption in you mourned for, before death and you meet.
Thirdly, Be much in the exercise of faith, making your calling and election
Fourthly, Be much in the exercise of mortification, and that will
help you to keep a loose grip, not only of the world, but also of your idols;
and if ye be much in these, ye shall undoubtedly be prepared for death.
Direct. 3. Be much in minding the excellent things of heaven. A
Christian that would be prepared for death, would have all his thoughts and
conversation there. I think it should be an excellent help (in preparation for
death) to take a sight of the crown every day.
Direct. 4. Labour
always to keep a good concience, void of offence towards God and man: I say,
labour to keep thy conscience clear, and that shall be a continual feast unto
Direct. 5. Slight not any known duty, do not crucify any
conviction, neither break any resolution; put these three together, and that
will exceedingly help you to prepare for death : I say, see that ye adventure
not to slight any known duty; see that ye adventure not to crucify any
conviction, and see that ye adventure not to break your resolutions. Now we
come to the Second thing which we observed from the words, viz. That
this truth, that we shall once see death, is not much believed by any of us.
And to make this appear, we shall only give some evidences unto you, to prove
that we are not as yet prepared for death.
I. Evidence. Doth not the
unspeakable stupidity that hath overtaken many, say, that we are not a people
prepared for death? Alas! many of us would find ourselves in a most stupid
temper, if we were presently to die; for many of us are no more moved with the
threatenings and terrors of God, than if they did not belong unto us ; and this
saith, we are not as yet prepared for death.
II. Evidence.That we
are not prepared for death, is our pursuing so much after the vain and passing
delights of a present world. Many of us rise up early, and go late to bed at
night, and eat the bread of sorrow all the day, and load ourselves with the
thick clay; and I am sure that such a person (being night and day taken up with
the world) is not prepared for death. I remember a word recorded of such a
wretched one, who was exceedingly rich ; said he, I would give so many
thousands of money, if death will give me but one day; yet he got it not. And,
0! how suddenly will death surprise many of us, as it did him.
Evidence. Which speaketh forth our unpreparedness for death, is our
impatience under every petty cross that we meet with; for the prepared
Christian will be patient under very sharp crosses.
That we are not prepared, is our not endeavouring to live within sight of our
interest in God. 0! if we were prepared for death, durst we live in so much
uncertainty of our interest in God, and of our assurance of heaven?
Evidence. Some of us can let our idols lie in our breast six years without
repentance, and will never study to mortify them, nor to repent for them; and
surely such are not prepared for death.
Now I entreat you seriously to mind
what hath been said; and that ye may the more seriously think upon it, I will
tell you some material challenges that your conscience at death will present
unto you; therefore take heed, that ye may know how ye will answer.
Challenge, Is the slighting of much precious time, and sinning away the
precious offers of grace. 0! what will ye answer to that challenge when death
shall present it unto you? Death will say (or rather thine own conscience at
death) what ailed thee to sin so many hours, without either praying, reading,
or meditating? Now, have ye any thing to answer when death shall present his
challenge to you? I entreat you to premeditate what ye will say:
you to prevent death, by presenting it first seriously to yourselves.
Challenge, That death will present unto you, will be for the killing of
many precious convictions which we have had. What will each of you answer at
death, when your conscience proposeth this challenge unto you? You met with
such a challenge at such a time, and went home and crucified it: when at
another time you met with another challenge, and went home and crucified it;
these challenges will be laid to thy door, therefore think on them.
Challenge. Death will challenge you for a formal hypocritical way of going
about duties; I say, your conscience will then tell you that ye went to such a
communion with a selfish end; and at another time ye prayed hypocritically and
formally. And what will ye have to answer when ye meet with these challenges? I
confess, I know not what ye can answer to these; but I charge you, be thinking
what ye will answer, for it may be that these convictions shall lie on your
consciences, that even this day ye have heard two searching sermons, and did
meet with some convictions, but made no good use of them? yea, and it may be ye
did sleep all the time. 0 ! what shall ye answer, when it shall be said to you,
ye went to such a sermon, and slept all the time? and ye went to such a
communion, with no other end before your eyes, but to be seen of men? I entreat
you consider presently what ye will answer to these.
Will be for your breaking of many precious resolutions. It will be said to some
of you, that at the communion, in this place, ye took on vows, and did break
them; I am sure ye cannot question the justice of the challenge, therefore see
what ye will answer.
5. Challenge. Ye slighted many precious offers
of the gospel. 0 men and women in this city, what will ye answer to this? I was
often exhorted to take Christ, and yet never would take him. What will
conscience say to that, when death shall table it before you? I tell you what
ye must then answer: 0 cursed I, that ever I refused Christ in the gospel! And
ye shall then be confounded because this is your sin ; believe me, there was
never an offer of this everlasting gospel, and of Christ in it, made unto you,
that shall not at death (before or after) be brought to your remembrance. And
0! how sad and doleful will it be to you, when Christ shall open the book
wherein all your sins are written, and begin with the sin of slighting the
great salvation? Thus I invited you, when you were twelve years old, but you
would not come. What will ye answer to this? Have ye any thing to say? Or must
ye not stand speechless before your Judge, when he shall put home this
challenge unto you? Therefore think seriously upon it, how ye will answer
6. Challenge, Will be for your sinning oftentimes against light;
and 0 ! how painful and sad a challenge will that be at the day of death, when
it will be said, thou sinnedst with a witness in thy bosom that thou wast doing
wrong? Thy conscience will say, oftentimes did I tell thee, this was sinful1
yet wouldst thou not abstain from it; and what will ye answer to this?
7. Challenge. Oftentimes ye sinned upon very small temptation, and what
will ye answer to that? Must ye not then confess it, and say, 0 ! how often
have I deserted Christ, and embraced my idols upon a small temptation? Now, I
entreat you, be thinking what ye will answer to these seven most material
challenges, which certainly shall be presented to you at death. I assure you,
ye must either answer all your challenges in Christ, else ye will not get them
well answered. Therefore, I would exhort you to embrace the gospel, and Christ
in it; and so let death propose never so many challenges unto you, ye may
answer them all as David did, viz., God hath made n,ith me an everlasting
covenant, (and that will answer all your challenges) though my house be not so
with God, yet I have the everlasting covenant to build my salvation upon.
Now, to press you to make use of Christ, I shall give you these four
Consideration 1. If ye embrace not Christ now,
death will be very unpleasant unto you. 0 what else can comfort thee, when
going through the region of the shadow of death, but this, I am Christ's, I am
Christ's? Is there any other thing can comfort thee in that day, but only this,
I am Christ's, and he is mine?
Consideration 2. If ye embrace not
Christ, and the great salvation now, it will be a hundred to one if ever ye get
time or liberty to do it, when ye are going to die. For although many delay
their closing with Christ till death, yet scarcely one of a hundred getteth
favour to lay hold on Christ at death ; therefore, think on it, for ye will not
get your mind so composed at death as ye imagine, nor all things done as ye
suppose; therefore, now, embrace the great salvation.
3. If ye delay your closing with Christ till death seize upon you, ye shall
never be able to make up that loss: for will the dead rise and praise God? or
shall any come from the land of forgetfulness, to take hold upon a crucified
Saviour? Therefore, 0! will you take him for your salvation?
Consideration 4. If ye will take Christ now, he shall be your guide, when
ye are going through the valley and shadow of death. And O how blessed is the
person that can sing that song, Psalm xlviii. 14, This is my God, he will be my
guide even unto death. If ye can sing that pleasant song, 0 how may ye be
comforted, when your eye-strings shall begin to break? 0 how happy is he who
can say, though I waite through the shadow of death, yet will I fear no ill;
for I know the Lord is with me? Now this is the acceptable day, and the year of
salvation; therefore, do not delay, but embrace Christ, lest death surprise you
ere ye be aware, and so that acceptable day be lost. But unto those who think
they may delay till death, I say, surely there are many damned atheists in hell
that sometimes did think as ye think :-I will make all wrongs right when death
and I shall meet; I hope that three days' repentance will satisfy for all my
wrong. For I am sure, there are many in hell who did never get three days to
think upon their former ways; therefore, 0 come. come, and embrace Christ
presently. Now, are ye all persuaded of this truth, that ye shall once see
death? Then study a tender walking; for, believe me, there are many of us who
shall go through death with many bruised bones, because of untencler walking
before God. We know it is not the multitude of words can persuade you to
embrace Christ; for many of you never minded the thing. But, believe me, death
will preach these things to you in a more terrible manner than we can do at
this time. Therefore, I say to each of you, 0 prepare to meet thy God; for if
death find you in an estranged state from God, I defy the angels in heaven to
free you out of that estate: and the day is coming, wherein thou shalt cry out,
0 slighter of the great salvation that I am, I would give ten thousand worlds
for one sermon again that I once heard, wherein Christ was freely offered to
me, when thou shalt be tormented without hope of remedy. Therefore, while it is
to-day, harden not your hearts, for your late wishes shall not be granted,
(when ye are gone) if ye make not haste. 0 therefore, haste, haste in time, and
come out from the land of your captivity, and from the house of your bond-age,
and take Christ for your Redeemer, the guide of your youth and old age,- Now
unto Him, who can lead you through all the steps betwixt you and heaven, be
eternal praise. Amen.
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