Page images
PDF
EPUB

parted friends, and the clay that corpse are turned into, is a good medicine for those eyes that are blinded with the dust of worldly vanities. Much more should you keep your acquaintance with the soul, which may, for all the distance, be perhaps more useful to you, than it was in the flesh. Alas! how carnally, and coldly, or seldom, do most professors look at their brethren, and at the angelical hosts that are above. They long for our conversion, and mind our great concernments, and rejoice in our felicity; and shall we be so swinishly ungrateful, as seldom to look up, and remember their high and blessed state?

Many think that they have no more business with their deceased friends, than to see them decently interred, and to mourn over them, as their removal were their loss; or to grieve for our own loss, when we perceive their places empty ; but we scarce look up after them with an eye of faith, much less do we daily maintain our communion with them in heaven: when Christ was taken up, his disciples gazed after him; Acts i. 10. Stephen looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw Christ sitting at the right hand of God; Acts vii. 55. And how seldom, how slightly do we look up, either to Jesus, his angels or his saints.

I tell you, sirs, you have not done with your friends when you have buried their flesh. They have left you

their holy examples : they are entered before you into rest: you are hastening after them, and must be quickly with them, if you are true believers : you must see them every day by faith. When you look to Christ, you must look to them, as his beloved friends, entertained by him in his family of glory. When you look up to heaven, remember that they are there: when you think of coming thither, remember that you must there meet them. You must honour their memories more than

you did on earth, because they are more honourable, being more honoured of God. You must love them better than you did when they were on earth, because they are better, and so more lovely: you must rejoice much more for their felicity, than you did whilst they were on earth; because they are incomparably more happy than they were. Either you believe this, or you do not. If you do not believe that the dead are blessed that die in the Lord, and rest from their labours, and are with Christ in Paradise, why do you seem Christians? If you do believe it, why do

you not more rejoice with your glorified friends, than you would have done if they had been advanced to the greatest honours in the world ? It is the natural duty of friends to mourn with them that mourn, and to rejoice with them that rejoice; and if one member be honoured or dishonoured, the rest of the body is accordingly affected. Do not your sorrows then instead of joys, tell all men that you believe that your friends are gone to sorrow, and not to joy? If not, you are very selfish or inconsiderate.

Direct. 10. Lastly, Let not your aversation to popery, turn to a factious, partial forsaking of God's truth, and your own duty and consolation, in this point.' Abundance of Christians have taken up opinions in religion, upon the love and honour of the parties that they took them of; and being possessed with a just dislike of popery in the main, they suspect and cast away, not a few great truths and duties upon a false information, that they are parts of popery. It hath grieved me more than once to hear religious persons come from hearing some ministers with disdain and censure, saying that they prayed for the dead ; and all their proof was that, “Thanksgiving is a part of prayer: but they gave God thanks for the glorification of the spirits of the just; therefore they prayed for them.' And so have they argued, because they have read the 1 Cor. xv. at the grave; or because they have preached a funeral sermon while the corpse was present, or because they prayed for themselves, or for the church. Alas, for the childish ignorance, and peevishness, and foolish wranglings of many Christians, who think they are better than their neighbours ! How much is Christ's family dishonoured by his silly froward children ! And they will not be instructed by their friends; and therefore they are posted up, and openly reproached by their enemies. Have angels or heavenly saints deserved so ill of God or us, that we should be so shy of their communion ? Are they nothing to us? Have we nothing to do with them? Have we cause to be ashamed of them? Is their honour

any

dishonour to God or us, if it be no more than what is their due? Can we give so much love, respect and honour to magistrates, ministers and friends on earth (imperfect, sinful, troublesome mortals); and shall we think that all is idolatrous or castaway, which is given to them which so far excel us? Is it your design to make heaven either con

temptible or strange to men on earth? Or would you persuade the world, that the souls of the saints are not immortal, but perish as the brutes ? Or that there is no heaven? Or that God is there alone without any company? Are so many fond of the opinion of a personal reign on earth, for Christ with his holy ones; and yet is it popery so much as to speak honourably and joyfully of the saints in heaven? My brethren, these things declare you yet to be too dark, too factious, and too carnal; and to hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, with respect to parties, sides and persons. Christ taketh not his saints as strangers to him : he that judgeth men as they love and use him, in the least of his brethren upon earth, will not so soon censure and quarrel with us as the sectary will do for loving and honouring him in his saints in heaven; for it is his will and prayer that they be with him where he is to behold his glory; John xii. 26. xvii. 24. And he will come with his holy angels to be glorified in his saints (who shall judge the world and angels) and to be admired in all them that do now believe ; 2 Thess. i. 10-12

CHAPTER XXVII.

How to receive the Sentence of Death; and how to die by Faith.

Having said so much of this elsewhere (in my books called, "A Believer's last Work :" “ The last Enemy:” My “ Christian Directory:" “ Treatise of Self-Denial,” &c.), I shall be here but very brief.

I. For the first case, before sickness cometh:
Direct. 1. • Be sure that

you
settle
your

belief of the life to come, that your faith may not fail.'

Direct. 2. · Expect death as seriously all your life, as wise believers are obliged to do: that is, as men that are always sure to die; as men that are never sure to live a moment longer; as men that are sure that life will be short, and death is not far off; and as foreseeing what it is to die; of what eternal consequence; and what will then appear to be necessary to your safe, and to your comfortable change.

Direct. 3. ' All your days habituate your souls to be

lieving, sweet, enlarged thoughts of the infinite goodness and love of God, to whom you go, and with whom you hope to live for ever.'

Direct. 4. • Dwell in the studies of a crucified and glorified Christ, who is the way, the truth and life ; who must be your hope in life and death;' Ephes. iii. 17-19.

Direct. 5. Keep clear your evidences of your right to Christ and all his promises ; by keeping grace or the heavenly nature, in life, activity and increase ;' 2 Peter i. 10. 2 Cor. xiii. 5. John xv. l. 1 John iii.

Direct. 6. • Consider often of the possession which your nature in Christ hath already of heaven; and how highly it is advanced, and how near his relation is, and how dear his love is to his weakest members upon earth : and that as souls in heaven have an inclination and desire to communicate their own felicity to their bodies ; so hath Christ as to his body the church ; John xvii. 24. Ephes. v. 25. 27, &c.

. Direct. 7. 'Look to the heavenly host, and those who have lived before you, or with you in the flesh, to make the thoughts of heaven the more familiar to you (as in the former chapter).'

Direct. 8. • Improve all afflictions, yea the plague of sin itself, to make you weary of this world, and willing to be gone to Christ;' Rom. vii.

Direct. 9. • Be much with God in prayer, meditation and other heart-raising duties; that you may not by strangeness to him be dismayed.'

Direct. 10. Live not in the guilt of any wilful sin, nor in any slothful neglect of duty,' lest guilt breed terror, and make you fly from God your judge. But especially study to redeem your time, and to do all the good you can in the world, and to live as totally devoted to God, as conscious that you live to no carnal interest, but desire to serve him with all you have; and your consciences' testimony of this will abundantly take off the terrors of death (whatever any erroneous ones may say to the contrary, for fear of being guilty of conceits of merit). A fruitful life is a great prepárative for death ; 2 Tim. iv. 8. 2 Cor. i. 12, &c. Direct. 11. Fetch from heaven the comforts which

you live upon through all your life. And when you have truly learned to live more upon the comforts of believed glory, than upon any pleasures or hopes below, then you will be

able to die in and for those comforts; Matt. vi. 20, 21, Col, iii. 1. 4. Phil. iii. 20, 21. 1 Thess. iv. 18. Phil. i. 21. 23.

Direct. 12. “The knowledge and love of God in Christ is the beginning or foretaste of heaven,? (John xvii. 3. 1 Cor. xiii. &c.) and the foretastes are excellent preparations ; therefore still remember that all that you do in the world, for the getting and exercising the true knowledge and love of God in Christ; so much you do for the foretastes (and best preparations) for heaven. If any man love God, the same is known of him" (with approbation and love); 1 Cor. viii. 3.

II. In the time of sickness, and near to death.

Direct. 1. 'Let your first work, when God seemeth to call you away, be, to renew a diligent search of your hearts and lives, and to see lest in either of them there should be any sin which is not truly hated and repented of.'

Though this must be done through all your lives, yet with an extraordinary care and diligence when you are like to come so speedily to your trial: for it is only to repenting believers, that the covenant of grace doth pardon sin: and the impenitent have no right to pardon. Though for ordinary failings which are forgotten, and for sins which you are willing to know and remember, but cannot, a general repentance will be accepted (as when you pray God to shew you the sins which you see not, and to forgive those which you cannot remember or find out); yet those which you know must be particularly repented of: and repentance is a remembering duty, and will hardly forget any great and heinous sins, which are known to be sins indeed. If your repentance be then to begin, alas it is high time to begin it: and though if it be sound, it will be saving (that is, if it be such as would settle you in a truly godly life, if you should recover); yet you will hardly have any assurance of salvation, or such comfort in it as is desirable to a dying man: because you will very hardly know whether it come from true conversion, and contain a love to God and godliness; or whether it be only the fruit of fear, and would come to nothing if you were restored to health. But he that hath truly repented heretofore, and lived in uprightness towards God and man, and hath nothing to do, but to discern his sincerity, and to exercise a special repentance for some late or special sins; or to do that again which he hath done unfeignedly before,

« PreviousContinue »