« PreviousContinue »
But we should consider our latter end seasonably, as well as thoroughly. It must be thought of, and Provided for, before the solemn event is immediately approaching. There is something so awfuliu eternity, that if we were sure of living to the age of Methuselah, we could not begin our preparation for it too soon. But since our stay here is so short and uncer: tain, surely it were madness to lose an hour, where moments are so precious. We should adopt the resolution of Job : “ All the days of my appointed time will I wait, till my change come.” Did we rightly consider the employments and the company of heaven, we should not think forty, or fifty, or a hundred years too long, to seek a preparation for a state so exalted and holy.
“ It is time enough yet,” cry the men of business and pleasure; " it is time enough for such gloomy considerations, when our latter end is immediately in sight. At present, we have other things to regard. But some years hence, when we are confined to our beds, and all is silent and solitary, we shall have nothing else to do, but to think of our souls. Then we will be as diligent and devout as you would have us, and all our, thoughts, and all our talk, shall be about death and eternity.”
But will those men of hurry and dissipation permit me to ask them a question or two? Suppose that at the beginning of your sickness, the disorder should seize your brain, so as utterly to incapacitate you for thinking; what will you do then? Or imagine that you should have such an insupportable oppression upon your spirits that the nearness of death, and the
awful consequences of dying, should so startle' and confound
could not think to any purpose; what will you do then? Or suppose that you should be as composed as you can wish, and rivers of tears should run down your eyes, on looking back. on a life full of sin; but that your repentance, notwithstanding, should come too late : what will
do then? Did you never hear of some, who were foolish enough to slumber away their time without oil in their vessels with their lamps; and who, when the cry was made, “ Behold the bridegroom cometh,” were in hurry and confusion : but while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and they that were ready, went in with him, and the door was shut? Were you never informed of one, who, having foolishly parted with his birthright, when he would afterwards have inherited the blessing, found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears? Is there any thing in these examples to encourage procrastination? If you had often attended a death-bed, you would find that it is difficult, and many timesim . possible, for a man to get a lucid interval, sufficient to make a will, or even to sign his name ; and is that a time to have the infinitely more inportant concerns of our souls and eternity to settle ? Is it a time to inquire the way to Zion, when we have but few steps more to take in this world? Is it a time to wrestle with flesh and blood, and principalities, and powers ; to declare war against the devil, and our own more powerful depravity, when heart and flesh are both failing? These are things of too much importance to be suddenly dispatched; and yet, if they should be neglected, you are ruined for ever, " Whatever
thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.
But some of you are still ready to say, “ You may spare your exhortation ; it signifies nothing to prescribe such doleful meditations to us. If we must always have a coffin and a shroud before us, there is an end of all business and pleasure. You might as well shut us up in a monastery, and then we should have leisure for reflection; and the gloominess of the place might dispose us to relish such melancholy subjects; but they are entirely unsuitable for persons in the public or active engagements of life." If this be true, then Solomon was deceived, when he said, “ It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to the house of feasting.” If this be true, then the Apostle was deceived, when he said, “ But godliness is profitable to all things, having the promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.” The proper business of life will be rather promoted, than hindered, by serious consideration. It would excite you to diligence in your respective employments, and make you exert yourselves to provide for your families, if you considered, that you knew not how soon you might be taken away from them. As to pleasure, you may enjoy all that is fit to be enjoyed, and yet have a sense of your mortality, So that I say, the consideration of your latter end, will have no ill effect upon either business or pleasure.
But be it known unto you, men and brethren, that there is something else in life, besides business or pleasure, which the young, the busy, and the gay,
little think of; and that is affliction. When these evil days come, the consideration of our latter end, if we be found among the people of God, will be supporting and exhilarating. We shall think, that it is buta little while, before we shall be secure from all danger and sorrow in heaven ; but a few more days, and we shall take shelter where the wicked cease from troubling, and where the weary are at rest. Death will break in upon us, whether we consider it or not; and it will be the beginning of sorrows, if we do not provide for its approach; and the end of sorrộws, if we have “ fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us." But I am anticipating the second my
dis. course, which is, the wisdom and advantage of considering our latter end.
It would help us to form a truer estimate of life. This is greatly needed; for at first setting out in the world, we entertain very erroneous opinions. We presume that we shall live to fourscore years, and lay our plan according to this estimate. So many years we expected to reside in this place, and so many more in that: we think, that so long we shall be getting a fortune, and afterwards we look for a long, long time to enjoy it : and if we meet with trouble, we are soon cast down, and, perhaps, secretly murmur at the severity and length of our sufferings. But the consideration of our latter end rectifies all these mistakes. It teaches us that such transactions, troubles, or comforts, ought not to make so deep an impression on our spirits. “ For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little while, and then vanisheth away.” If we look forward, and consider how
soon it will, and how suddenly it may, be extinguished, it will damp the pleasures, and mitigate the sorrows, of this vain and vanishing state. should I be so anxious (should we then say to ourselves) about joining house to house, and field to field, and increasing a fortune which I must so shortly forsake? Or why should I be fretful or uneasy, that such a one is richer than I, when death will soon put us both upon a level ? The word of God says, “ Be not afraid when one man is made rich. When he dieth he shall carry nothing away ; his glory shall not descend after him ;” and therefore, let their condition be easy and affluent, and mine narrow and distressing; I am perfectly satisfied. I shall quickly leave all vanities and vexations behind me; and, blessed be God, I expect happiness in a more durable world. I will therefore endeavour to lay up treasure in heaven, where moth and rust do not corrupt, nor thieves break through and steal: and when that is secured, I shall feel little concern at whatever changes may
Whether I be rich or poor, in health or in sickness, in life or in death, I shall be happy."
In this manner, the consideration of our latter end would dispose us to reason and to act. We should then perceive the propriety of the Apostle's conclu, sion, and let all the world see that we were influenced by it: “ Brethren, the time is short. It remaineth that both they that have wives, be as though they had none; and they that weep, as though they wept not ; and they that rejoice, as though they rejoiced not; and they that buy, as though they possessed not; and they that use this world, as not abusing it; for the fashion of this world, passeth away.".