Obrazy na stronie
PDF
ePub

ments of fenfe that this life affords: whereby it comes to pafs that as death itfelf is unwelcome when it draws near, fo the thoughts and pre-apprehenfions of it become as unwelcome as the thing itfelf.

2. A vain foolish conceit, that the confideration of our latter end is a kind of prefage and invitation of it; and upon this account I have known many fuperftitiously and foolishly to forbear the making of their wills, because it feemed to them ominous, and a prefage of death; whereas this confideration, though it fits and prepares a man for death, it doth no way haften or prefage it.

3. A great difficulty that ordinarily attends our human condition, to think otherwife concerning our condition than what at prefent we feel and find. We are now in health, and we can hardly bring ourfelves to think that a time muft and will come, wherein we fhall be fick we are now in life, and therefore we can hardly caft our thoughts into fuch a mould, to think we fhall die; and hence it is true, as the common proverb is, That there is no man fo old, but he thinks he fhall live a year longer.

It is true, this is the way of mankind to put from us the evil day, and the thoughts of it; but this our way is our folly, and one of the greateft occafions of thofe other follies that commonly attend our lives: and therefore the great means to cure this folly, and to make us wife, is wifely to confider our latter end. This wisdom appears in thofe excellent effects it produceth, which are generally thefe two: 1. It teacheth us to live well. 2. It teacheth us to die cafily.

I. For the former of thefe, the confideration of our latter end doth in no fort make our lives the fhorter, but it is a great means to make our lives the better.

1. It is a great monition and warning of us to avoid fin, and a great means to prevent it. When I fhall confider that certainly I muit die, and I know not how foon, why fhould I commit thofe things, that if they haften not my latter end, yet they will make it more

B 3

uneafy

uneafy and troublesome by the reflection upon what I have done amifs? I may die to-morrow, Why fhould I then commit that evil that will then be gall and bitternefs unto me? Would I do it if I were to die tomorrow? Why fhould I then do it to-day? Perchance it may be the last act of my life, and however let me not conclude fo ill; for, for aught I know, it may be my concluding act in this fcene of my life.

2. It is a great motive and means to put us upon the best and most profitable improvement of our time. There be certain civil and natural actions of our lives. that God Almighty hath indulged and allowed to us, and indeed commanded us with moderation to ufe: as, the competent fupplies of our own natures with moderation and fobriety; the provifions for our families, relations, and dependencies, without covetouf nels or anxiety; the diligent and faithful walking in our callings, and difcharge thereof: but there are alfo other bufineffes of greater importance, which are yet attainable without injuring ourfelves in thofe common concerns of our lives; namely, our knowledge of God, and of his will; of the doctrine of our redemption by Chrift; our repentance of fins paft; making and keeping our peace with God; acquainting ourfelves with him; living to his glory; walking as in his prefence; praying to him; learning to depend upon him; rejoicing in him; walking thankful unto him. Thefe, and fuch like as thefe, are the great bufinefs and end of our lives, for which we enjoy them in this world; and thefe fit and prepare us for that which is to come: and the confideration that our lives are fhort and uncertain, and that death will fooner or later come, puts us upon this refolution and prac tice to do this our great work while it is called to-day; that we loiter not away our day, and neglect our task and work while we have time and opportunity, left the night overtake us, when we cannot work; to gain oil in our lamps before the door be fhut: and if men would wifely confider their latter ends, they might do

1

this great business, this one thing neceffary, with ease and quietnefs; yea, and without any neglect of what is neceffary to be done in order to the common neceffities of our lives and callings. It is not thefe that difable us and rob us of our time: but the thieves that rob us of our time, and our one thing neceflary, are negligence, excefs of pleafures, immoderate and exceffive cares and folicitoufnefs for wealth, and honour and grandeur; exceffive eating and drinking, curiofity, idlenefs: thefe are the great confumptives that do not only exhauft that time that would be with infinite advantage spent in our attainment, and perfecting, and finishing the great work and bufinefs of our lives; and when ficknefs and death comes, and God Almighty calls upon us to give up the account of our ftewardship, we are all in confufion, our bufinefs is not half done, it may be not begun; and yet our lamp is out; our day is fpent; night hath overtaken us; and what we do is with much trouble, perplexity, and vexation; and poffibly our foul takes its flight before we can finifh it. And all this would have been prevented and remedied by a due confideration of our latter end; and that would have put us upon making ufe of the prefent time, and prefent opportunity to do our great work while it is called to-day, because the night cometh when no man can work.

3. Moft certainly the wife confideration of our latter end, and the employment of ourselves, upon that account, upon that one thing neceffary, renders the life the most contenting and comfortable life in this world for as a man, that is a man afore-hand in the world, hath a much more quiet life in order to externals, than he that is behind-hand; so such a man that takes his opportunity to gain a stock of grace and favour with God, that hath made his peace with his Maker through Chrift Jefus, hath done a great part of the chief bufinefs of his life, and is ready upon all occafions, for all conditions, whereunto the divine Providence shall affign him, whether of life or death,

B 4

or

or health or fickness, or poverty or riches; he is as it were afore-hand in the bufinefs and concern of his everlasting, and of his prefent ftate alfo. If God lend. him longer life in this world, he carries on his great bufinefs to greater degrees of perfection, with ease, and without difficulty, trouble, or perturbation. But if Almighty God cut him fhorter, and call him to give an account of his ftewardship, he is ready and his accounts are fair, and his business is not now to be gone about: Bleffed is that fervant whom his Master when he comes fhall find fo doing.

II. As thus this confideration makes life better, fo it makes death easy.

1. By frequent confideration of death and diffolution, he is taught not to fear it; he is, as it were, acquainted with it afore-hand, by often preparation for it. The fear of death is more terrible than death itfelf; and by frequent confideration thereof, a man hath learned not to fear it. Even children, by being accustomed to what was at first terrible to them, learn not to fear.

2. By frequent confideration of our latter end, death becomes to be no furprize unto us. The great terror of death is when it furprizeth a man unawares; but anticipation and preparation for it, takes away all poffibility of furprize upon him that is prepared to receive it. Bilney the martyr was used, before his martyrdom, to put his finger in the candle, that fo the flames might be no novelty unto him, nor furprize him by reafon of unacquaintednefs with it; and he that often confiders his latter end, feems to experiment 2 death before it comes, whereby he is neither furprized nor affrighted with it, when it comes.

3. The greatest fling and terror of death, are the paft and unrepented fins of the paft life; the reflection upon thefe is that which is the ftrength, the elixir, the venom of death itself. He therefore that 2 experience.

'frequent.

of our Latter End.

9

wifely confiders his latter end, takes care to make his peace with God in his life-time; and by true faith and repentance to get his pardon fealed; to enter into covenant with his God, and to keep it; to husband his time in the fear of God; to obferve his will, and keep his laws; to have his confcience clean and clear; and being thus prepared, the malignity of death is cured, and the bitterness of it healed, and the fear, of it removed. And when a man can entertain it with fuch an appeal to Almighty God, as once the good king Hezekiah made, in that ficknefs which was of itself mortal. Remember now, I beseech thee, O Lord, how I have walked before thee with a 'perfect heart ',' &c. It makes as well the thought, as the approach of death, no terrible business.

4. But that which, above all, makes death eafy to fuch a confidering man, is this: That by the help of this confideration, and the due improvement of it, as is before fhewn, death to fuch a man becomes nothing elfe but a gate unto a better life Not fo much a diffolution of his prefent life, as a change of it for a far more glorious, happy, and immortal life. So that though the body dies, the man dies not; for the foul, which is indeed the man, makes but a tranfition from her life in the body, to a life in heaven. No moment intervenes between the putting off of the one, to the putting on of the other; and this is the great privilege that the Son of God hath given us, that by his death he hath fanctised it unto us, and by his life hath conquered it, not only in himfelf, but for us.

Thanks be unto God, who hath given us the victory, ' through Jefus Christ our Lord 2;' and our victory, that is thus given us, is this: 1. That the fling of death is taken away: and 2. That this very death itself is rendered to us a gate and paffage to life eternal; and upon this account it can neither hurt, nor may juftly affright us. It is reported of the adder, that when the J Isaiah, xxxviii. 3.

* 1 Cor. xv. 57.

2

[ocr errors][ocr errors]
« PoprzedniaDalej »