The Blessednesse of the Death of these that die in the Lord, and more especially in ane evil time;
Excellently discoursed in seven very searching, but very sweet Sermons, on Revel. 14. v. 13.
Wherein, several weighty cases relating to death in General, and to dieing in the Lord in particular are succinctly, solidly, and satisfieingly handled.
By that Faithful, Fruitful, and FamousMinister of theGospel, Mr. JAMES DURHAM sometime Preacher thereof at Glasgow
Iob 14. v. 14.
Psal. 90. v 12.
Nunc age, quod moriturus agas.
Whereunto, at the desire of the Worthy Widow and other Judicious Christian Friends of that singu∣larly successeful Minister of the Gospel, Mr. Wil∣liam Guthry, there is affixed a vindication of his sweet smelling memory, from the high injury done thereto, by the pitifully ignorant and grossely non-sensical mis-printing of some of his Sermons
Printed in the Year 1681
To the Very much HONOURED and Vertuous. LADY MADAM JEAN COKBURNE, Lady to the Right Honourable Sir ROBERT HEPBURNE OF KEITH-MARESCHAL In East-Lothian, Knight.
WHen I was casting in my thoughts, to whom I should address the dedication of these, few following Sermons, your Ladyships selfe Page [unnumbered] readily offered, being a person to whom I am upon many accounts singularly oblidged, As I am likewise unto your Honourable Husband; Have∣ing also had the retirement and conveniencie not far from you, for reviseing and makeing them ready for the Presse, which as you partly know, and as others may conjecture, was not so very easy a peece of work, considering that they were not taken from the Author's Pen, but from his mouth when preaching, by one of his ordinary hearers no Scolar, and afterwards transscribed by ano∣ther person of lesse Judgment: Your La: being withall a genuine and undegenerat Daughter of the Ancient, Honourable, and Loyal Family of Or∣mestoune, eminently instrumental in our beautiful and blessed, in our great and glorious, work of Reformation from Popery, and famous (as it is hoped it will thrugh grace still continue to be, if the like sad occasion, as we wish it never may, should againe occurre) for ready and chear∣ful receiving, herbouring, cherishing, and in∣courageing the faithful Servants of God and Mar∣tyrs of Jesus; particularly of renowned Mr. George Wishart, who was thence taken under trust by the unhappy Earle of Bothwel, now extinct and his memorial with him (the mentioning whereof, I know your Honourable Husband Sir Robert's just regaird for the Reformed Protestant Religion, will easily persuade him o bear with, though he may be, for any thing I know, one of the neerest rela∣tions of that some-time great Nobleman now sur∣viving) Page [unnumbered] while the house of Ormestoune stands and flourisheth still; which Mr. Wishart, I say, was taken thence, and thereafter most cruelly murd∣ered at Saint-Andrewes, the then seat of Cardinal Beatton, who in great state and much pompuous pride, looking out of the Window of his Castle there, now almost levelled with the ground fedd his lustful eyes with the horrid and pitiful, but to him pleasant, spectackle, of that eminent Saint and Servant of Christ, his bei•… brunt alive and consumed into ashes: The measure that Ma∣ster Patrick Hamiltoune that notable person nobly descended, having been * nephew by his Father to the Earle of Arran, and by the Mother to the Duke of Albany (no blood being too noble or precious to be lett by these butchers, or to be suckt by these blood-thirsty leeches) mett with at the hands of Arch-Prelat Beatton Uncle to the said Cardinal, not many years before in that same place. O! terrible truculent and Tra∣gical actings, yet such as may be eracted amongst us, if ever (as God forbid) the Roman Antichrist that scarled coloured beast drunk with the blood of the Saints, and Martyres of Jesus, shall againe recover his interest in these Kingdomes, now the Kingdomes of the Lord and of his Christ.
But it may be some care lesse and unconcerned Gallioos will, for silenceing and satisfieing us, say that these things were done by Law; As we are Page [unnumbered] told by a late petulant and prophane Pamphele∣teer, that all these horrid and hideous persecuti∣ons raised and prosecuted against many Protestants in the neighbouring Kingdome of England, in the short but very bloody reigne of Queen Mary, notwithstanding her solemne Professions made to the Northfolk and Suffolk Gentlemen, and in plaine Councel, to the contrary; Were accord∣ing to Law, So that the Martyres in her dayes can no more be •…ounted such, then those who suffered since the late Popish plot; (above 200. of whom, being in all but 277, according to his reckon∣ings, (though he reckoneth amisse) were, as he falsly and impudently alledgeth, executed as profligat persons, speaking this malicious and gros∣ly calumnious lie purely out of his own, in exact imitation of the Father of lies; for famous Mr. Fox that indefatigably laborious searcher after all occurrents of that nature, gives us no such ac∣count; of whose exact scrutiny in the sufferings of the Martyres under Queen Mary, ingenuo•… and impartial Master Fuller speaking in his ecclesiastical History, sayeth; This point hath been handled al∣ready so curiously and copiously by Mr. Fox, that his industry herein hath starved the endeavours of such as shall succeed him, leaving nothing for their pens and paines to feed upon; for what can the man doe that cometh after the King? But that which hath been already done, and Mr. Fox appearing sole Emperour in this subject, all posterity may dispair to add any remarkable discoveries which have escaped his observa∣tion,Page [unnumbered]wherefor to handle this subject after him, is to light a candle to the Sun; and further according to his commendable candor, he adds, as if it had been in designed contradiction to this Detractor, And now to take our leaves of these Martyres, what re∣maines but—that we embrace and defend that doc∣trine which they sealed with their lives, and as occa∣sion shall offer, to vindicat and assert their memories from such scandalous tongues and pens, as have or shall tra∣duce them; Neither doeth Doctor Burnet, in his late History of the Reformation of the Church of England, give us any such account; Nay neither Speed nor Baker, whom he most injuriously voucheth for his Authors of this calumny, hint any such thing): But the man hath forgotten, or would not remember, that there have been, may be, and still are in the world, thrones of iniquity which establish mischiefe by a Law, wherewith God, the great Lawgiver, hath no fellowship; And that the primitive Christian Martyres, who were most cruelly put to death by the persecuting Pagan∣Roman-Emperours, particularly by Trajan, Ha∣drian, the Antonins and Severus, wer so dealt with by them, according to the Then-lawes of the Ro∣man Empyre; for which reason, it is very proba∣ble that Iohn the Divine in the Revelation, brings in some of these persecutors with a pair of ballances in their hands, insinuating thereby, that they pre∣tended to weigh and measure out their persecu∣tions of Christians, by exact Justice according to Law: Who are therefor no more to be accounted Page [unnumbered]Martyrs; Nay, all that have suffered most exquisit torments and cruel deaths on the account of the Protestant Religion, not only in Scotland & England, but in France, Germanie, the Low countries, and elsewhere since the beginning of the Reforma∣tion, and our forsakeing the Apostate Church of Rome: and in Tholouse, Bohemia, the Valleyes of Piedmont, and in other parts of the Christian World before that time, for that very same Re∣ligion, tho not under the denomination of Pro∣testant, must needs according to the new doctrine of this pretended protestant Author, be dasht out of the roll and catalogue of the Martyres of Jesus Christ; because forsooth, they wer gene∣rally put to death by and according to the lawes of the respective Countries wherein they suffer∣ed, tho these humane Lawes were framed on the matter in contempt and defiance of divine Lawes to the contrary. And yet we need neither wonder nor strange to find this man basely bespattering, as so many profligats, the Protestants who suffer∣ed in Queen Mary's dayes, and ranking them al∣most in the same class and category, and setting them near by on the same levell with the Papists, that were lately executed for their accession to the horrid and hellish plot, and denying the former to have been Martyres more then the latter; who roundly and boldly in the face of the reformed Churches dar assert, that all the difference be∣twixt the Popish and Protestant Religion is, in modes and circumstances, and no more in reality; and Page [unnumbered] that the Lawes which established the Protestant, and abolished the Popish Religion, cannot be otherwayes al∣tered but by ane equal power with that from whence they had their being, King and Parliament, who by aggreeing, no more prejudge the publick in order to Heaven, then they did before, that being only acci∣dental and extrinsecal to the substance of Religion, by which alone, and not by formes or ceremonies, men are to be saved. What? are there no material and high∣ly momentuous doctrinal differences betwixt Pa∣pists and Protestants? As about the Pope his arro∣gantly claimed & Usurped universal, Civil, & Ec∣clesiastick supremacy, whereby he taketh on him to transfer Kingdomes, to depose Kings and Em∣perors, and to loose subjects from their sworn alleadgences to them; to interdict as to all sa∣creds, and on the matter to excommunicat, not only particular persons the greatest crowned heads not excepted, but wholl Christian King∣doms at his pleasure, none being warranted to say, what, or why doest thou? And all this as Christs Viccar on earth, whereas indeed he is the Arch-enemy of Christ, even that Antichrist to whom all his characters assigned by the Apostl∣es Paul and Iohn, doe most exactly and punctual∣ly aggree. About his fondly fancied infallibility, times and wayes out of number to the conviction of the World, not only fallibilized, but grosly falsified and belied; as for instance undenyably appears in a matter of very great moment, to wit, the different translation of the old vulgar latine Page [unnumbered] Bible by Pope Sixtus the fifth, and by Pope Clement the eight, some three years only interveening be∣twixt the one and the other †; each of which translations, is in the preface or bull thereto pre∣fixt, declared to be authentick and obligatory of the whole Christian World, to own the same as such; the printing or publishing of any other translation, being under the paine of the greater excommunication severly discharged; and yet these two translations, are not only in a multi∣tude of places, upward of a thousand, different the one from the other, but in many expresly contrary the one to the other; so that the Popes pretended infallibility, doeth infallibly prove fallible, and falls down flat; for if the one of those translations be infallibly true, the other must needs be infallibly false, or if they should still say, which it seems they cannot have the e•…rontry to doe, that they are both infallibly true, then their Popes will not only be made in∣fallible, but (if it did not involve a blasphemous repugnancy) superomnipotent, by attributing to them a power to make, most really, plainly, and palpably contradictory propositions true at once (So that we need not henceforth wonder, that their Canon-law stileth the Pope, Our Lord God the Pope); besides that several of these pre∣tended infallible Popes, have by the published confessions of their own writers, been found Page [unnumbered] respectivly guilty of grossest Heresy, Simony, Perjury, Adultery, Sodomy, Necromancy, Sacrificeing to Idols and Devils, and of other most vile and abominable villanies; yea, their great Champion Baronius at the year 897; ex∣presly sayeth, that for the space of ane hundred and fifty years togither, the Popes wer rather Apostats then Apostolicks, and that they wer thrust into the papal chair, by the power of harlots, and by the violence of the Princes of Tuscany; which Sandy fundation of al∣ledged infallibility being overturned, all the rotten and tottering superstructure of his false doctrines rear'd up thereon, as so many castles of come-downe, must needs fall to the ground; It is indeed a wonder that any rational man should have the confidence to own such a fancie, but a greater wonder that any professing himselfe to be a Christian, should make it a grand article of his belieffe, and a basis of the eternal salvation of his immortal soul; alace! its to be feared that ane evil conscience cauterized, and some predis∣position to Atheisme, are with many, the great inductives to it. About the authority of the sa∣cred Scriptures, which they will have wholly as to us, to depend upon the authority of the Church, that is to say at bottome, of the Pope, blasphemously alleadging, that the authority of the Pope is above the authority of the Scriptures, that no book, nay, nor chapter in the whole Bible, is to be held for canonical, without the Popes authority, and that the authority of the Scriptures is no more to bePage [unnumbered]valued then Aesops Fables†, unlesse it wer for the Testimony of their Church. And about the perfection and perspicuity thereof in all things necessary to Salvation, which they endeavour to disgrace, by the impious imputations of imperfection and ob∣scurity, calling them a Black Gospel, Incken Divi∣nity, and a Nose of Wax*. About the necessity of unwritten traditions in matters of faith, as proceeding from the same divine authority, and to be received with the same divine beliefe, and under the same paine of divine wrath and damna∣tion, that the divinely and infallibly inspired Scriptures are; For the Councel, or rather causlesly cursing Conventicle, at Trent, sayeth, that they are to be received with the same reverence. About the unwarrantablenesse of translateing the Scriptures into vulgar languages, and of the peoples reading of them, in point blanck-contradiction to the Scriptures themselves; and whatever be pre∣•…ended, mainly intended to keep them still in gross ignorance of divine Scripture-truths, and in ut∣ter incapacity to discover, detasse, and abandon their abominable errors; and how dar the people presume to read the Scriptures? Since his holi∣nesse Pope Innocent belloweth out like a beast this fine infallible interpretation of that Scripture, anent the beasts not touching the mountaine whereon the Law was given, This mountaine (saith Page [unnumbered] he) which must not be touched by the beasts, is the high and holy Scriptures, which the unlearned must not read: And their Doctors commonly affirme, that the People must not be suffered to read the Scrip∣tures, because forsooth, We must not give holy things to dogs, nor cast pearls before swine: such ac∣count make these Pastors of the people, as to rank them amongst beasts even the vilest of them, dogs and swine; which sayeth, such Pastors are fitter to feed and keep dogs and swine, then to feed and watch over rational men and women that have immortal souls: And one of them, Al∣phonsus de Castro, asserts, that from the reading of the Scriptures, all heresies come; though this hath been ordinarly more through the fault of learned men then of the common people, and in neither, through any fault of the Scriptures; They are so mad angry at the translation of the Bible into vul∣gar languages, that some of them have boldly belched out this blasphemy, That peoples being per∣mitted to read the Bible, was the invention of the De∣vil*; there is ane English Pamphlet printed Anno 1663. intituled, The Reconciler of Religions, that hath these horrid words, pag. 41.—The protestant Bible is no more the Word of God, then is the Alchoran or Aesops Fables, it is a Diaboli∣cal invention, and a sacrilegious instrument to deceive and damne all such poor soules as beleive it, and therefore worthy to be burnt with fire in the midle of the merket at noone, and let all thePage [unnumbered]People say Amen, so be it. About justification by works and inherent righteousnesse, and not by the imputed righteousnesse of Christ; whereby sinners have accesse to boast and glory, as being made their owne immediat saviours, and to offer a false sacrifice which God will never accept of, to the great dishonour of the alone Saviour Jesus Christ. About the possibility of not only fulfilling the Law perfectly in this life, tho the whole Scrip∣tures, the universal experience of all ages, and mens own consciences reclaim; but of out-doeing the Law, and doeing more then it requireth or oblidgeth men unto, by their works of superero∣gatione; whereby they think to oblidge God, and to merite from him not only for themselves, but for others also, and whereby they will needs have the righteousnesse of one supererogating Saint, to be imputed to other persons, and hold this for a very real truth, while in the mean time they flout at the imputation of Christs merits and righteous∣nesse, as but a putative and meerly imaginary thing, so great is the strength of judicially in∣fatuating delusion. About antiscriptural, irra∣tional, nonsensical, and monstrous Transubstan∣tiation, whereby they will have the bread and wine in the Eucharist turned, and that by the Priest when and as often as he pleaseth, into the very body and blood of Christ, and so will have him, whom the Heavens must receive or containe till the time of the restitutione of all things, to be corporally or bodily present therein, and that in Page [unnumbered] thousands of places at once, as to his whole body; and so to be chewed with the teeth, digested in the stomack, and sent forth into the draught of the profainest wretches that participat of that Sa∣crament; yea, it may be, to be eaten by mice and rats, terrible to be once but thought of. And their abominable unbloody sacrifice of the Mass, offered dayly for the sinnes of the Living and of the Dead, highly derogatory unto that one pro∣pitiatory and Justice-attoneing bloody sacrifice, offered up once for all unto God by Jesus Christ the great high Priest, on the golden Altar of his divine nature, by which sacrifice he hath per∣fected for ever them that are sanctified. About the Sacraments conferring grace on such as re∣ceive them by the very deed done; and the ne∣cessity of a right intention in the administrator of them, not only as to the fruit and effect, but as to the validity and very being of them; where∣by not only their Opus operatum is overturned, but most things in popery as such, namely their Transubstantiation, and sacrifice of the Mass, nay the very Papacy itselfe (as some of their own noted writers seem to be convinced † are render∣ed utterly uncertaine; and in truth nothing left Page [unnumbered] certaine among them but this, that there is ane uncertainty of most, if not of all things. About their halfe-communion, whereby, on most frivo∣lous and foolish reasons, such as their fear least some of the wine or blood as they call it, should remaine on the Laiks beards or mustachoes, they sacrilegiously rob the people of the cup, most ex∣presly contrary to Christs allowance thereof on them, in the divine unalterable institution of that most precious ordinance, appointed for the spi∣ritual nurishment of his people. And the absolute necessity of baptisme in order to salvation; wher∣by all the Children of them who beleive no other place that souls departed goe to after death but Heaven or Hell, are for the meer want thereof, tho neither neglected nor contemned by the pa∣rents (for of such contempt or neglect the in∣fants themselves are incapable) are most cruelly damned to Hell fire for ever. About purgatory, a meer fable and figment, but indeed a very ser∣viceable fire for the Popes Kitchine; whereby the alone, purely, and perfectly purging vertue of Christs precious blood, is mightily disparadged. And about the Popes pardons and indulgences (or rather emulgences or purse-milking and emp∣tying devyces) offered to all who will give mo∣ney for them on their saying of so many Ave Ma∣ry's, and Pater-nosters, and doeing other such poor, childish, and foolish faites; and manyest to them that give most money, but utterly de∣nyed to those poor wretched soules that have no∣thing Page [unnumbered] to give. About their praying publickly in the Church, in a language utterly unknown to the generality of the common people; whereby he that should be their mouth to God is a Barba∣rian to them, and they incapacitat to joine with him understandingly, or to give their assent to what he prayes; in plaine and palpable contradic∣tion to what is most clearly and convinceingly discoursed in the Scripture to this purpose. About praying to Angels and Saints departed, not without deep and dishonourable reflections on the intercession of Jesus Christ our alone Media∣tor. And About praying for the dead, who are by death put into ane eternal unalterable state, and so set quit without the reach of the benefite of the prayers of the living. About worshiping of imag∣es with religious and divine worship; which if any of them for shame should deny, their great Angelick Doctor, Thomas of Aquin† will give them the lie, who expresly sayes, that the same reverence is given to the Image of Christ, which is given to himselfe, and because Christ is wor∣shiped by the worship Latria (which is the highest worship) his image therefor is to be worshiped with the same worship Latria; he affirms the like of worship given to the crosse of Christ, or the Crucifix of whatever matter it be made. And on the matter About the obligation of the Second Command, which because it cannot be bowed nor bended, no not by the plenitude of the PopesPage [unnumbered] power, to patronize nor in the least to favour their grosly Idolatrous image-worship, they will needs not only break it, but dash it quit out of the decalogue in despite of the great Law giver, who hath so vexed and confounded them by that Command, that they cannot evite the dint of it; and hath involved them into such a Labyrinth that they cannot extricat nor bring themselves out of it, no not by the clew of the smalest Spun∣threed of their most subtile distinctions. About the Apostacy of the Saints, and the uncertainty of their Salvation, the very cut-throats of the comfort that is allowed by Jesus Christ on them that unfainedly beleive in him; and about many moe weighty things. Are all these but Ceremonies and Circumstances in Religion? Can the man be so grosly ignorant as to think so, or so wickedly prejudicat to say so when he thinks otherwayes? Are all the very substantial differences betwixt Protestanisme and Popery thus dwindled away into mere Modes, and Circumstances, Formes, and Ce∣remonies? And shall we look on the great multi∣tuds of Protestants, who on the sole account of their Religion have been putt to so many, various, exquisit tortures and most cruell deaths, as a company of silly shallow-pated ridiculs, rather to be pitied then as paterns to be imitated, who knew not how to distinguish betwixt the substance and mere modes and circumstances of Religion, but would needs injudiciously and foolishly throw away their lives, burne quick, and run them∣selves Page [unnumbered] into so many extreme sufferings, for their obstinat adhering to modes and circumstances of Re∣ligion, wherein the substance of it was not at all concerned, nor so much as trench'd upon or touched? God forbid that we should dar, espe∣cially at so high a rate, to offend against, and condemne the generation of, these righteous persones, who overcame by the blood of the Lamb, by the word of their Testimony, and by not loveing their lives unto the death; or suffer ourselves to be whidled into such a sinister and perverse beliefe of these witnesses and wor∣thies, of whom the world was not worthy, and that upon the bare and unproved asser∣tions, and maligne whispers, of this truck∣ler after, and trafficker for, Rome; who, yet if ye will trust him, never was, nor is like to be, ad∣dicted to Popery, he is not sure but he may be, and who I pray that is not over credulous will beleive him, or any other man of his Kidney, that lookes at all differences betwixt Protestants and Papists, as matters of mere Mode, Circumstance, and Cere∣mony, but that he will be easily prevailed with, to forgoe the one and to embrace the other Reli∣gion, both being in his account the very same for substance, if especially by the change he may come to a litle more substance in the world?
However, since such industrious endeavours are used to disparage, disgrace, and vilifie sufferers and Martyres for the Protestant Religion, and to make litle and light of all the great and weighty Page [unnumbered] differences betwixt Protestanisme and Popery, It should alarme, as with sound of trumpet, your La: and all sound and upright hearted Pro∣testants in Scotland, to rouze ourselves, and by all suteable, sinlesse, and warrantable wayes earnestly to contend for the reformed Protestant Religion, the very faith once for all delivered by Jesus Christ and his Apostles to the Saints, (I say the very faith so delivered, because we reformed Protestants heartily own all the doctrine of faith contained in the sacred Scriptures, and own no∣thing as necessary to be beleived or practised in order to salvation, that is not contained there, either in expresse words, or that is not deducible therefrom by genuine, unconstrained, and ne∣cessary consequence) that hath been signally sealled from Heaven by the conversion, edifica∣tion, and salvatione of multitudes of souls; That hath been confirmed by the sufferings & deaths of many thousands of Martyres thorrow the world, and of not a few in these Kingdomes; That faith for which our noble and renowned Ancestors did so strenuously strive and wrestle, by all lawful means and wayes, that the same might be handed down to us; And which God and they have com∣mitted to our trust and custody as a most precious depositum, oblidging us under all highest paines, even of his eternal wrath and curse, that we en∣deavour to transmit the same inteir and untainted to them that shall come after us; And that faith which we are withall by solemne ingadgements, Page [unnumbered] taken on before God and the World, indispen∣sibly oblidged to maintain, professe, avouch, and bear testimony unto, at any rate or ha∣zard, as we are called to it, It being indeed the true glory of a testimony, to give it when God calls for it in the face of danger; Let us there∣fore be prevailed with, and perswaded by all these and other such considerations, earnestly to contend for this faith, and to stand fast in the li∣berty wherewith Christ hath made us free, that we be not againe intangled with the yoke of Anti∣christian bondage. And that we may thorrow grace, be the better disposed and capacitated to doe so; We would endeavour, 1. Thorrowly to know, and to be well acquainted with, the prin∣ciples of the Religion which we professe, that we may be able and ready alwayes, with meek∣nesse and fear, to answer every one that asketh us a reason of our faith and hope; even to have our loins girt about with the truth. 2. We would seek to be fully assured and perswaded of the in∣fallible truth and divine authority of the sacred Scriptures wherein our Religion is contained, and that from the inward work of the Spirit of God bearing testimony thereof unto our Spirits accord∣ing to the Scriptures. 3. We would yet more then ever endeavour to receive the love of the truth, or to receive the truth in love, for the neglect whereof many have been, and moe, if God pre∣vent not, will be, given up to strong delusion to beleive lies. 4. We would covet earnestly to feel Page [unnumbered] the power and more and yet more of the power of our Religion upon our hearts, captivating us to its obedience, and mightily influenceing our practice to ane universal exact conformity to it, that no part nor point of the truth may be detain∣ed in unrighteousnesse, nor made, as it wer, a prisoner of, by setting a guard of corrupt affec∣tions about it, not suffering it to look out and shew itselfe in our practice. 5. We would study to be and abide near God, not only to make sure on good grounds, that we who wer sometime far off, are now made nigh through the blood of Christs crosse as to our state, but by all appointed means to endeavour to draw nigh as to our frame, disposition, and walk, (for though it be impos∣sible that there can be any drawing nigh to God in respect of frame where the distance of state remaineth still, yet there may be, as many dole∣ful experiences of the Saints put beyond all reach of debate, great distance of disposition and frame where there is nearnesse of state) that we may hear this to be the unanimous voice of all the oc∣curring providences of these dayes, that its good for us that we draw nigh to God; It was sure al∣wayes good but never better, alwayes necessary but never more necessary then at such a time, wherin distance from God, usually attended with darknesse and deadnesse, is singularly dan∣gerous and portends sadly. 6. We would endea∣vour to have the honour and glory of Jesus Christ much endeared to our hearts; To have, and to Page [unnumbered] keep up, a high and superlative esteime of him as transcendently and incomparably precious, and of the worth and excellency of our Religion, as coming from him, as conforming us to his image, and as disposing and fitting us for the enjoyment of him; that in comparison of the excellency of the knowledge of him, by and according to Scripture-Religion which we professe, all things in this world, pleasure, profit, and honour, may in our esteime be degraded, and detruded into the very lowest degree of basenesse and vilenesse, even to be accounted but as losse and dung; which will not ably predispose to part with, forgoe, and actually to suffer the losse of them, when any of them or all of them togither shall presume to compare or come in competition with the excel∣lency of Jesus Christ, and of the Christian re∣formed Protestant Religion: This is a time, wherein all the lovers of Christ and of their Reli∣gion amongst us, are in ane especial manner call∣ed to have such a low esteime of all these things in this competion, to cry down the market and to let the prices of them fall, to sitt very loose of them, to be very denyed to them, and to be ready on a call to let them all goe, when we can∣not brooke them and Christ and our Religion to∣gither. 7. We would sett ourselves down with greater and more grave deliberation then ever, to count what Christ and our Religion may coste us; And to this purpose we would cast up (to say so) the Kings Book of Rates, the Book of the Page [unnumbered] holy Scriptures, that there we may see what all the followers of Christ are most expresly called to lay their reckoning with the losse of, for his and the Gospels sake, and what Christ and the very same Religion which we professe, hath coste many of the Saints recorded there; We would also review, as we have accesse, humane writings concerning the many various, great, and greivous losses and sufferings of the Martyres of Jesus, for him and for our Religion, that we may thence further see what they have been put to expend on that noble and non-such account, who yet all reckoned their greatest expence and coste infinitly below the worth of the cause for which they wer put to it; We have generally hitherto, and that for a considerable time, held and possessed our Religion at mighty easy and cheap rates, it hath coste us but very litle; It may be, yea, its probable that the rates will be raised, that the market will be up; Which calls aloud on us to sitt down seriously and soberly and count the coste, whither we will be able to finish and goe through with our undertaking, and that thorrow the neglect and defect of such pre∣vious deliberat reckoning, we be not with the sur∣prising and unexpected change and coste putt to give over in the midest of our work, and so expose ourselves to be the objects of the scorne and de∣rision of all observing passers-by. 8. We would beleivingly take Christs bond and obligation, for his gracious and free compensing of all losses that Page [unnumbered] shall be honestly undergone for his and the Gos∣pels sake, even ane Hundred fold in this present time as to what is infinitly better then that which is loste, and life eternal in the world to come, with the comfortable clause non obstante persecu∣tione, with or notwithstanding of persecutione, and to shew that he is not complementing sincere sufferers for his sake, by giving them this his bond for upmaking of their losses, nor putting ane emptie spoone into their mouth, but speaks his very heart to them, he hath ordered the re∣cording or regestrating of it by three of his Evan∣gelists, and in every drawght of it (which is worthie observation) he hath prefixed a grave as∣severation, verely; O! highly valid, good, and sufficient security, given with such sincerity by so infinitly Responsal a person, whom God hath trusted as great Surty and Cautioner for the debt and duty of all the elect, who can never breck or be unable to pay his debt; And who is willing his people should beleivingly, prayerfully, and hum∣bly sue him, in the court of Heaven for imple∣ment of his bond for compensation, and will never refuse the debt, nor will he suffer his bond to ly untaken up, nor will he take it up till he hath compleatly payed all that he hath most freely be∣come debitor for by his bond and obligation; And when that shall be done, then sure all losses for Christ and the Gospel, for true Religions sake, shall be fully, superaboundantly, and to ane infinit overplus, made up.
Page [unnumbered]Madam, I am the more incouraged to address the dedication of these few Sermons on this sweet, serious, and savoury subject to your La: that I know you will read them concernedly, as will also your honourable Husband Sir Robert doe, as being, through grace, more immediatly con∣tributive towards his excitment and upstirring, to make ready for his quickly approaching dissolu∣tion, walking now betwixt threescore and ten and fourscore years, the outmost ordinary boun∣dary fixed by God in these last ages of the world for the continuance of the short life of man; I know he readeth much, would to God that all the Gentlemen in Scotland old and young, gave themselves as much, when not otherwayes ne∣cessarly and suitably avocked, to reading of pro∣fitable and edifieing bookes as he doeth; they might, through his blessing, be much more ac∣complished both men and Christians, and a great deal more fitted to serve their generation, ac∣cording to the will of God, in their respective capacities and stations. That you both may be helped of God, to live more and more so as you may have the well-grounded, lively, and soul-re∣freshing hope of dieing the blessed death of them that die in the Lord, who rest from their labours and whose works follow them, is the ve∣ry serious desire of
Your La: very much obliged Servant, and hearty Well-wisher in the Lord J. C.
To the Christian READER.
MAny and various are the vicissituds and changes to which sin hath sadly subjected us poor, tran∣sient, itinerary, miserable Mortals, grieving, groaning, dwining, and decaying nothings; the Reire∣ward of all which changes is at length brought up by Death, that last, great, and vastly momentuous change, which putts a final period to all the changes that shall ever befal us in this world; and whereby every one of us without exception of sexe, age, de∣scent, degree, calling or capacity, will be put into an eternally unchangeable state of happinesse or of mise∣ry: If so, then sure it is very sad, and never enough to be lamented, if it were with teares of blood, that men and women who have rational and immortal souls endued with a discurring faculty, and capable of eter∣nal happinesse in the enjoyment of God, and of eter∣nal misery in separation and destruction from his presence, should for most part, so much abstract from the serious thoughts of that most important change, followed with so long a train of everlastingly concern∣ing consequents, and in their retired meditations, take so few turnes in this long gallery of Eternity; As if all that the divinely inspired Scriptures say of it, and that many every day experience the truth of, were a meer Romance, or cunningly devised fable: And yet not∣withstanding Death is most incontrovertibly certain, all men being by Divine appointment concluded un∣der a necessity of dieing; which appointment taketh in not only the infallible certainty of the thing, but the determination of the precise time, when, of the place, where, and of the manner, how; whither by a violent or natural death, whither by a more sudden and surprising, or by a more lent and lingering, death: Page [unnumbered] For our times are in the hand of the Lord, the years, moneths, weeks, dayes, and moments of them, with all their incident changes and revolutions are at his dispose; There is an appointed time to man on earth, he hath determined the times befor appointed; the times and seasons are keeped in the Father's owne power; our dayes are determined, the number of our Moneths is with him, he hath sett bounds to us which we cannot transgresse: There is no possibility of circumduceing the day prefixed to the continuance of our life by his appointment (which is not at all gainsaid by what the Psalmist sayth of bloo∣dy and deceatful men, that they shall not halve, or live out halfe their dayes, that is, they shall often not live halfe or near so long as they might according to the ordinary course of nature, or not halfe or near so long as they desired, designed, and expected, or, they shall be cutt off in the throng of their bussinesse, and in the midst of their projects and designes; nor by that sentence of death of a disease mortal in its own nature, denounced against King Hezekia, and the addition of 15. years to his life, which imports only the change and reverse of a tacitly conditional commination and sentence (as in that against the Ninivits▪ and that against Abimelech in the matter of Sarai) but no change at all of Gods purpose and decree, who is not as man that he should repent▪, whose counsel stands and with whom there is no variablenesse nor shadow of turning, who had decreed in his eternal purpose the drawing forth of Hezekias life that length, and had by his decree infal∣libly ensured the performance of the condition, to witt, Hezekias praying, humbling himselfe, and rouseing up of himselfe yet more to the serious exercise of God∣linesse, and his useing prescribed means for the reco∣very of his health; Nor is it gainsaid by any other scripture rightly understood•…. So that it seemes to be (to say no worse) Atheologick, and no thing consen∣tient to Divine-Scripture-dictats, positively and per∣emptorly Page [unnumbered] to deny that the outmost terme and period of this mortal life is unalterably fixed in the eternal purpose of God: It being very unreasonable to sub∣stract and exempt so concerning and important a thing as the last terme of man's life, or the precise time of his death, which in the Scripture▪ is by way of emi∣nency above and beyond all other changes called His Change, even that whereby he steps over the border of time into eternity, from the soveraigne influence of his decree and of his Providence that doth most vigi∣lantly and accuratly inspect the infrustrable execution thereof; since they reach the least momentuous and most minute things, even the numbering of our haires, and the falling of a sparrow to the ground. Beside, whatever is or can be said against this, seems with equal strength to militat against the immutability of the divine purposes and decrees about the everlasting state of men; and to inferr as great an uncertainty of the later as of the former. And indeed it is worthy Observation that those who most violently maintain (I say most violently; because I know there are some otherwayes Orthodoxe who demurr in this) that the terme of humane life is unfixed, mutable, and ambula∣tory, even in the eternal decree and fore-knowledge of God, as well as it is contingent and uncertain in respect of natural and second causes, do also patro∣nize and peremptorly plead for the mutability and conditionality (for both come to the same amount) of God's decrees about men's spiritual and everlasting state, making him either dayly to acquire new know∣ledge, though knowne to him be all his workes from the beginning, or at least to be doubtful and ir∣resolved in his purposes till new emergents arising from an uncontrolled and selfe-governing Free-will cause him take new measures and resolutions: Which is a doctrine justly exploded by all truly Orthodoxe Divines, as being unworthy of, and injurious to, the Page [unnumbered] infinitly wise and absolutly supreame Governour of the World; And as haveing a tendency (however it may be honested and plaistered over with specious and splendid pretences of somewhat else to narrow and limit the soveraigne dominion and will of the infinit Majesty of God the Creator, that the will of the finit and fecklesse Creature may have the greater scope and latitude of liberty; which yet is no li∣berty indeed, nor worthy the name of liberty; because it is not that wherewith the Son of God makes free: And to take the crowne of the glory of the conversion and salvation of sinners off the head of free grace, and to sett it most sacrilegiously on the head of their own Lord Paramount Free-will: And in downe right contradiction to the Scriptures of truth, to make poor man proudly boast, that it is not God, but he himselfe, who hath made him to differ from others; and that he is more oblidged in the Matter of his conversion and salvation to his own toward, trac∣table, gentle, courteous, complyant, and obse∣quious Free-will, then to God's decree of election, and the efficacious, omnipotently sweet, and sweetly omnipotent, infallibly and necessarily will-inclining and determining, though not forcibly violenting, or compulsorily coacting, influence of soveraignly free grace: If wantonly curious, superciliously insolent, tumultuantly mutinous, corrupt humane Reason (am∣bitiously affecting to take up and comprehend the great Abysse, the shoarlesse, bottomlesse, and incom∣prehensible Ocean of the Decrees and Providence of God within it's owne litle and shallow cockle-shell∣capacity) would suffer its selfe to be sobered and be∣calmed into a humble and just consideration of things, all those high and haughty reasonings and debatings against the unalterable fixednesse of the last terme of mans natural life, and against the immutability of his Decrees in reference to their spiritual and everlasting Page [unnumbered] state, would quickly be let fall; for then it would easily see the great congruity, and pleasing sutablnesse that is in subjecting all, and particularly the rational Creatures being but derivat and borrowed bitts of being from that first fountain, and original being, that being of beings, in all the events that befal them, and in all their motions, actings, and operations, ac∣cording to their respective natures, entitatively, mo∣rally, or graciously good; And all the adhering•…no∣mies, ataxies, and vitiosities of them; to the Majesty of the most high God, as to his efficient produceing of the one, and as to his permitting, bounding, or∣dering, and directing of the other, to his owne holy and blessed ends; without being justly chargeable with any the least culpable accession to them; who is, by the most absolute perfection of his purest nature, infinitly removed from all possibility of being reached by any tincture or touch of pollution: It would also see clearly the most profoundly and admirably wise connexion, that in these Decrees of God, and in the execution of them by his all eye-providence, is or∣dered betwixt the ends, and all the several midses leading thereto; it being evident beyond all hazard of rational contradiction, that the boundary of the life of Ahab, and of that unbeleeving Samaritan Lord who was trode to death in the gate of Samaria, and of our blessed Lord Jesus himselfe, was determinatly prefixed, since it was expresly fore-told, as the Scripture clears; And it is simply impossible that Di∣vine predictiones can prove false; And yet the man that shot at Ahab acted freely in so doing: Those who trampled that Lord to death were not forced by any to gather themselves togither into such a croud, or to be so reguardlesse of a person of honour; and the Murder∣ers of Christ were not a whit the lesse guilty, that they did nothing but what God's hand and counsel de∣termined befor to be done, nor yet did our Lord any Page [unnumbered] thing that was irrational or foolish, in using lawful and fitt means for his owne preservation, in so frequent retireing and hyding himselfe from the jewes violence as he did, though as the Scripture often makes men∣tion, His hour was not yet come; by which instances it is very clear, that the determinatnesse of the decrees of God, doth no wayes violent or infringe the native freedome of the wills of Men, nor yet is it any ex∣cuse for their sin, or encouragement to their neglect of means, since it is by the using rightly or neglecting of these, that God causeth his unalterable decrees to take their designed effect.
As then it is most indubitably certain, that we must die, so the time for the continuance of our life and dayes here, is very short, even but as an hand-breadth, and our age as nothing befor him, our dayes are spent as a tale that is told, they are as a shaddow on the earth, and there is none abyding; they are swifter then a Post, they flee away and see no good; they are passed away as the swift Ships, as the Eagle that hasteth to the prey, they are swifter then a Weaver's shutle; our life is even as a vapour that appeareth for a litle time, and then vanisheth away; as a litle warme breath, that is turned in and out at our Nostrils, which is very easily and quickly stopped. The precise time also of the expiring of this breath of life is (however to God, to whom (as is said) are knowne all his works from the beginning, most in∣fallibly certain) to us most uncertain; death comes on us ordinarly, in such an hour as we do not think of; It comes on us as a thief in the night; We are now strong and in good health, and on the sudden we grow weak and sicken: Now we live, and by & by we die, & see men no more in the land of the living. All which, to witt, the certainty of our death, the exceeding brevity of our frail and brittle life, with the great un∣certainty of the precise time of our dieing, do with one voice unanimously call aloud unto us seriously to Page [unnumbered] mind, and with all our might to make for an other life; to make sure peace and friendship with God thorough the blood of Christ's crosse; to secure an interest in him (the choice and wale of all interests, the only everlastingly durable interest, in comparison of which, all other interests are but petty and inconsiderable, to which they all ought to cede and give place, and, as it were, to strick their flag and lower their top-sail) by sincere closing with Jesus Christ on his owne termes, and cor∣dially consenting to, and taking hold of, the Cove∣nant of Grace; and to live so as it becomes them, who are very certain that we shall die, and very uncertain how long we shall live: To endeavour thorrow grace to have our loines girded, to have our affections, as it were, trussed up that they may not hang down and traile on the earth, and to have our lights burning, not only to make sure on solide and good grounds that we have a stock of habitual grace, but to endeavour to have it▪ lively and vi∣gorous in its excercise, even as it were burning into a flamme; that we may be as men that wait for the coming of their Lord, that in whatsoever watch he shall come, we may be ready to open to him immediatly, even at the very first knock, were it on a night's, or a day's, or an hour's, yea, were it but on a moment's warning, having our house (to say so) in such order, and the spirituall affaires of our soules so well disposed of, and in so good a postour and case, that we may not be taken tardy or napping, nor be on the sudden sadly sur∣prised to our unspeakable prejudice; even to be in that most desirable and delightful condition, that to us to live may be Christ, that the very principal scope and end which we propose to ourselves in desiring life and health, may be the honour and Page [unnumbered] glory of Jesus Christ; looking at life with all the external conveniencies and comforts of it, as but litle valueable and unworthy to be desired were it not mainly in order to this end: And then we may confidently and comfortably conclude, that death whenever, wherever, and however it should overtake us, would be gain to us, by puting a final and eternal period to all the remainders of indwell∣ing sin, to all tentationes to sin, to all desertion, and to all complaints and fears of desertion and hydings of God's face; to all doubtings about our gracious estate and about our interest in God; to all feares of backsliding, and of offending, or of giving offence; to all trouble, sorrow, sadnesse, and sighing on whatsoever account; to all indispo∣sition to serve, worship, and glorify God; to all interruptions of fellowship with him, and to all fellowship that is but mediat and in part: To all sm∣ful ignorance and imperfect knowledge, or but in part; These great Theologues there read all their divinity without book, and without any the least difficulty in that beatifical immediat Vision of God's face: And by ushering us in to that blessed estate, wherein we shall be satisfyed with his likenesse, and that both objectively and subjectively▪ being then admitted to see him in himselfe as he is, face to face, even to full, immediat, and never to be interrupted fellowship with him; and being priviledged to see him in ourselves, perfectly con∣formed to his image in holinesse according to Crea∣ture-capacity; and put in case to serve him there, where his Servants serve him as well as ever we desired to serve him in the best frames we were ever in, and in the best houres we ever had on earth in the most countenanced publick ordinances, or in the sweetest secret duties of his worship; Page [unnumbered] Nay, which is yet more, where we shall serve him as well as ever he commanded us to serve him, or shall desire us to serve him, that sure will be in such spiritually noble state as we never befor served him while we sojourned here on earth. Alace! How few, how very few, how lamentably few are there, even amongst the great multitudes of professing Christians, of pretenders to godlinesse, and to the hope of that gain and blessednesse which attends them that die in the Lord, who make it the great bussinesse of their life to live thus? even all the dayes of their appointed time, to wait till their change come; coveting and crying in prayer to God that he would graciously and effectually so teach them to number their dayes, that they may apply their hearts to wis∣dome? How many are there that may at their death sadly complain, as it is storyed of one Similis Cap∣tain of the Roman Emperour Hadrian his Guard▪ who having lived long in the City and at Court, and having some seven years befor his death re∣tiered himselfe unto a privat Countrey-house, where he thought, it is like, he enjoyed himselfe more, being freed from the avocations, distractions, noise, and cumbersome converse of a Court-life, com∣manded that after his death it should be written over his grace, Here lyeth Similis who was many yeares, but lived only seven: How many Professors of Religion are there, I say, that may thus sadly and sorrowfully complain of themselves when they come to die, Ah! we have been many yeares, but have lived either none at all, or but very few yeares: For that life that is not lived to God, and to the honour and glory of Jesus Christ, is not at all worthy the denomination of life, since we are all the time we live so, but dead while we live: It is astonishing to think that Reasonable Page [unnumbered] Men and Women professing they have immortal soules, living especially under the clear light and sun-shine of the Gospel, who do not at all designe nor endeavour to live to God, nor to live the life that they now live in the flesh by the faith of the Son of God, should foolishly fancy themselves to live, and fondly flatter themselves in a golden dreame, that they shall be well at death, and die in the Lord, and so be blessed with them that die thus; who rest from their labours, and whose works follow them; who enter into peace and rest in their beds, every one walking in his uprightnesse; O! fools Paradise; O! deplorable and damnable delusion. Who ever therefor would be, (as all of us are unspeakably concerned to be) undeceived as to this selfe-murthering and soul-ruining grosse prac∣tical error and mistake, and seriously and sincerely desire to live so as they may have the well-ground∣ed hope of dieing in the Lord, and of being truely blessed at and after their death; (without which it had been much better for them never to have lived at all, or to have lived the life of brutes, even of the most abject, vile, contemptible, and abo∣minable brutes, which when they are dead are done, annihilated, and gone) Let them diligently peruse, and gravely ponder these few following Sermons, and pray for the blessing of them; The Designe whereof (excellently driven by the Author, who did most edifyingly and exemplarly, most con∣vinceingly and comfortably▪ live and die thus) is to rectify such miserable mistakes; and to airth right (which he doth by a most admirably divine arte) to∣wards the only sure and safe way of dieing happily, which is by living holily.
I doubt not, Christian Reader, of thy having read several other Tractats on this subject, but I Page [unnumbered] suppose thou hast hardly read any more solidly and suc∣cinctly, more pertinently, powerfully, and pun∣gently writen, and withall, more suted to the va∣rious cases and conditions of all sorts of Readers, then this. As for me, while I was revising these Sermons, and making them ready for the presse, I was sometimes, as I still am, made to doubt (I shall not deny but my litle acquaintance with other men's writings may considerably influence this doubt) whither any ordinary Minister of the Gospel, hath readily to this purpose handled so many notable pur∣poses to better purpose, several of them surprising, yet all of them clearly dependent upon, and native∣ly consequent unto, one another, in so few words.
Read then this litle Book (which is Mr. DUR∣HAMS, from whose pen or mouth, no thinge hath hitherto dropped into the presse, that hath been unsavoury or unacceptable to the Churches of Christ) again and again, and digest it well, and I think I may with humble boldnesse say, that if thou shouldst read nothing else on this concerning subject but it, and what is writen thereof in the book of the sacred Scriptures, (which in this and all the other purposes treated of in it, doth infinitly transcend all the writings of the ablest and holyest men in the world) thou mayst, through God's blessing, be suf∣ficiently instructed thence, how to die the blessed Death of them that die in the Lord. Now blessed eter∣nally be our blessed Lord Jesus who by his accursed, but most blessed Death, hath procured all this Blessed∣nesse that attends and follows the death of them that die in him; Who are all blessed and shall be blessed in despight of the Devil, of the World, and of the Remainder of Corruption dwelling in them till their dieing day; He himselfe hath pronounced the blessing on them, and who shall, who dare, who can reverse Page [unnumbered] it? They are all blessed that live and die in the Lord, and none but they; all true blessednesse is entailed upon, ingrossed and monopolized unto, this hono∣rable Society; Not a drahme-weight of it (to say so) being to be found all the World over beside; What∣ever ignorant, deluded, and befooled men may fancie to the contrary. That thou mayst be found associated with this blessed Company, is the earnest desire of
Thy Servant in the Gospel J. C.
On Revel. 14. v. 13.
THese words are singularly usefull, material and momentuous in themselves, and it is not for nought that the Spirit of God puts such a mark on them, and that a speciall commission is given to Iohn to write them; we have therefor thought it meit to speak a word of them beyond what we can easilie reach in the lecture, they including a truth so verie concerning to us even the right way of dieing and the happines that fol∣lows them that die in the Lord; blessednesse hath in all ages beene thought of and sought after by men, though alace many have sadly mistaken it, and the way how to come at it, here is the neirest step and doore to it, even to die rightly and well, and that is to die in the Lord.
That we may a litle open up the meaning of the words we would consider that this verse sett down by way of transition coupleth the two last parts of the chapter togither; for when Iohn hath spoken of the warneing and advertisement given to the world by the Page 2 Ministers of the Gospell, ere he come to denunce Judgment for despysing of the preached Gospell, these sweet words are interjected by a voice from heaven, writte sayes he, blessed are the dead which die in the Lord &c.
The scope of them then is this, since there wer sad and doolfull dayes coming and Judgments wer like to be verie universall after Gods beginning to reckon for despysing of the Gospell, that he may both sett out the greatnesse and terriblenesse of the Judgments and comfort the Godlie against them, the Lord bids Iohn writte downe this, that none who die in him neids to be affrayed of them; as if he had said, though these Judgments that are coming will be verie great and though many will be removed and sweeped away by them, and though withall the coming-calamities will be such that the Godlie will be readie to think them happy that wer taken away, yet notwithstanding, all these that die in me are blessed.
There are 4 things considerable in this verse, 1. A preface, I heard avoice from heaven, saying unto me writte, importing the weightinesse of the matter and commission, for it is sent from heaven to Iohn and he is bidden writte it, its a heavenly message sent by Christ to his Church and even to his Church in these tymes and dayes wherein we live. 2. A plaine max∣ime, conclusion, or generall doctrine laid downe as a most certaine truth, writte sayeth he, blessed are the dead which die in the Lord, registrat and record this sayeth Christ, it hes beene and shall be a most infalliblie certaine truth to the end of the world, let never so many confusions come and let Kingdomes be turned upside down, they are blessed that die in me. 3. There is a qualification of this truth not denying the uni∣versalitie of it, but seeming to apply it as especiallie verified in such a tyme, from henceforth, yea saith the Spirit. We cannot so expone these words as if the Page 3 meaning of them wer, that from the tyme of their death they are blessed who die in the Lord though that be a truth, 1. Because it agries not with the scope, these words being a diversion relateing to this time, and intended for a peculiar comfort to the Godlie against the evils of Judgment coming in this tyme. 2. Be∣cause it will not agrie with the particle here used, from hence-forth or now, (as it is in the originall) to expone it so, for then it would have beene said, from thenceforth, that is from their death forward; but it is from henceforth, that is now in this sad time that is coming; and if any should ask what shall be the singu∣lar happinesse that these shall have who after this time shall die in the Lord? The answer may be drawen from the reason that is subjoined, which is the 4 thing in the text, that they may rest from their Labors and their works doe follow them; this implyeth a speciall tosseing and troublesome time coming, and sayes this much, that its verie good to be in heaven ere that time come; and out of this reason we may see a three∣fold respect wherein their happinesse that die in the Lord is applicable to this tyme, and they doe all agrie to the scope. 1. They are freed from much tossing toill and trouble that the surviving godly would be in∣volved in who should have a hard & toilsome life of it under the coming judgments (for the scope is to sett out the greatnesse of the approching judgments); and they are happy that are taken away from the evil to come, as Solomon sayes Eccles 4: 2. I praised the dead which are alreadie dead, more then the living which are alive, meaning they are freed from these troubles vanities & vexations that the living wer wait∣ed with; they are (as if the Spirit had said) freed from a toilsome and troublesome world, more so now and at this time then at other times. 2. They are happie in this respect that now when the Gospell is brocken out, they die with more confidence, being freed from the Page 4 fear of purgatorie, being cleir in the matter of their salvation, and assured of their goeing immediatly to paradyse; and this is holden forth in the end of the words in that it is said their works doe follow them; though they have no expectation to receave any thing by way of merit, yet it shall be well with them who have keeped a good conscience, for they shall eat the fruit of their doeings, as it is Isai. 3. for though God give not any thing to his people for their works, yet he rewards them according to their works, so propor∣tioning his proceeding with them as nothing shall be found to have been done by them for him for nought; and this is a speciall part of their happinesse, that they shall be freed from the anxietie that the darknesse of these superstitious times keeped men under being now cleired by the light of the Gospell. 3. Compare∣ing this with vers. 11. they are blessed that die now in the Lord after life and immortality are brought to light by the Gospell, because they are freed from the scroching hell that these gott who worshiped the beast; now when the light is come are they not blessed who die in the Lord and are freed from that which they would have mett with if they had not lived and died in him but in darknesse and ignorance of him? And so the words say, that when the Gospell break∣eth forth men must resolve to live and die in Christ, or to live and die in a more damnable condition then the heathens that lived before them without the Gospell.
In this conclusion or generall doctrine we have these three things implyed, 1. Something common to all, and that is dieing, good and bad have that lot, all must die. 2. That there is a difference in dieing as to some, though death be common to all, and that is to die in the Lord, 3. That there is a peculiar effect or advantage to them that die with this qualifi∣cation, and that is happinesse or blessednesse, and Page 5 these two last imply that there are many who die not in the Lord, and that consequently they are accursed who neither live nor die in him.
The generall doctrine is plaine and it greatly con∣cerns everie one to take notice of it, it wer good that this text wer ingraven in deep & legible characters on our hearts that we may learn to reckon blessednesse not so much from our life as from our living and dieing jointly togither; be what we will in our life if we die not in Christ there is a great lett and mancke in our happinesse, a curse in stead of a blessing, and if this indispensiblie requisit qualification be in it, it intitles us to this blessednesse, O! therefore let these plaine words and the necessity of the doctrine speak home to you.
First then it is implyed here that there is a necessitie of dying lying on all, for whill it is said, blessed are the dead that die in the Lord, it sayes plainly that there is a sort of dieing that is in the Lord, and a sort of dy∣ing that is out of the Lord, and all sorts of men and women die one of these wayes, as if he had said, would ye know who are indeed happie? Its not all who dy, but such onlie as die in the Lord; ye know what death is, we need not describe it to you, and ye are disposed to think that this needs not to be prov∣ed that all must dy, and we wish it needed no proof, however see 1. Heb. 9: 27. Its appointed to men once to die and Rom. 5. where it is said, that death hath pas∣sed upon all men and that death reignes over all men, vers. 12. and 14. And 2. it is certaine from the cause of death, which is sin and Gods curse for sin, death is the wages of sin, and where sin is as the cause death must be as the effect, yea 3. it may be confirmed from neir 6000 years experience, wherein none that have been borne thrughout all generations but they have died; we speak not of these extraordinar exam∣ples of Enoch & Elias who wer particularly and singu∣larly Page 6 by the soverainge dominion of God exempted from death, neither will we speak of what the Lord did to them in the place of death or for putting them in capacitie to sustaine immortalitie; Gods ordinary way of dealing with menis that which we are called to look to, its eneugh that they▪ have putt off mortality and putt on immortalitie though we know not the manner and way; but look on the race of mankynd and ye will find that these who lived longest died at last as Adam, Enos, Cainan, Mahalaleel, Iared, Gen. 5. and Methuselah who though he lived nyne Hundreth Sixty and nyne years yet died, and its said Eccles. 8: 8. There is no man that hath power over the Spirit to retaine it, neither hath he power in the day of death: and there is no discharge in that war, neither shall wickednesse deli∣ver those that are given to it; there is no man that hath power to keep his soul in his body, there is no dimis∣sion or forloffe in that war, no way to escape death, the profanest man that putts death furthest off from him shall not shift it; and seeing he takes it forgranted & all generations have proved the truth of it, we shall in∣sist no further on the proof of it but come to the use.
Use I. It serveth to setle and fixe the impression of the truth of this point deeply upon us, and withall to reprove our living so much from under and without it; alace we take generall truths ordinarlie for granted, but as for any sutable use or application of them in our practice we live for most part as if they wer untruthes; we live as mortall in respect of seiknesse, infirmities and feares, but we live as immortall in respect of the stayed thoughts of a world to come; let me therefor pose you in sober sadnesse, how often doe ye think seriously of dying? When laid ye your reckoning so∣lidly for it? When descended ye into your hearts to see how it would be with you at death? how often have you made your testament this way to say so? and when tooke ye your leive and fare-well of the Page 7 things of a world and laid them some way by, on this consideration that death will make a finall seperation betwixt you and them? Take these two or three evi∣dences that ye doe not indeed mind death and morta∣litie. 1. The stupid securitie we generallie live under and our great unwatchfullnesse sayeth plainly that we doe not really mind death, if we wer thinking on death would we be so carelesse in counting with God and so litle affrayed what will become of the immor∣tall soul, and live as if there wer not a life eternall, and as these of the old world did who eated and drank and never, to say so, once altered their pace? Ah! Is it not so with the most part now? Death lights like a falcon out of the air on the most part of men unawar, because this generall truth is not practically beleived, there could not be such deep and senslesse security if there wer serious thoughts and reall beleif of dying. 2. The great earthly mindednesse and unsatiable covet∣ing and lusting after the things of the world as if men wer perpetually to abyd with them, clearly and con∣vinceingly speak out this, beleive me, serious thoughts of dieing would much wean and estrange from these things; men alace seek after a happinesse here in tyme as if they wer to have ane eternall aboad in the world, as that poor rich man in the Gospell did who brutishly said to his soul, soul take thee rest for thou hast much goods laid up for many years eat and drink & be mirry; if men wer on their wing looking for death, sure they would not thus glutt themselves with these wordlie emptie things, hugely disproportioned objects for satisfieing the vast appetite of ane immortal soul which by its constitution is elevated to the capacitie of an happi∣nesse of a higher and more excellent nature then these things can possiblie amount unto; take this then for a palpable evidence of your Atheisme and unbeleife in this concerning point, and let the thoughts of death come in to bound and moderat your eager and inordi∣nat Page 8 persute of the world. 3. The great and intollera∣ble pryd and loftinesse of men and women is a demon∣stration of this, if ye minded death in good earnest and beleived that it wer neir even at the doore, and that your breath is in your nostriles, it would make you humble in your walking with God and in your con∣verseing one with another. 4. Litle preparation for dieing and for the life to come, if there wer no more sayes plainly and undenyablie that ye lay not death seriously to heart, which if ye did ye would be seeking more to lay up treasures in heaven and to be flitting (to say so) your affections thither and towards things above and to be casting your anchor within the vaile.
Use 2. In opposition to the former securitie and stupid unconcernednesse let me beseech you to mind this more seriously which is so certaine & to take more paines to the prepareing of yourselves for it, eterni∣tie is long O vastlie and incomprehensiblie long, hea∣ven and hell are matters of great unspeakablie great moment and consequence, when the master or good∣man of the house is (to say so) laid downe and hath shutt the door there will thenceforth be no opening; its now your summer, provyde O provyde for your long winter, its ill thrift to leave that which is of great∣est concernment hindmost, and to put over the secure∣ing of your eternall state till the tyme of sicknesse & death, ye know not if ever ye shall gett advertisement by any l•…inthened disease; and sicknesse will have much to doe with itselfe, neither know ye but ye may be snatched away in a moment on the sudden, and beleive it, its no common thing to die well, and to have death as the entrie and door to happinesse.
Therefore to stirr you up seriously and timeously to mind dying that ye may not with the sluggard say yet a litle sleep yet a litle slumber, and yet a litle folding of the hands to sleep, whereby the fool is slaine, consi∣der 1. that it will not be bare wis•… as that will make Page 9 you die well, Balaam had many such wishes to die the death of the righteous and yet was nothing the bet∣ter of them, spend not your dayes idlie, triffle not away your tyme unprofitablie, for death is alwayes coming on and will not stay and wait for your prepara∣tion when it comes; seek therefore to be found in a watchfull and praying frame, blest is that servant who when his master comes is found in that postour wait∣ing for the coming of his Lord and readie to open to him immediatly (or at the verie first knock) as it is, Luke 12. vers. 36. O! Strangely Emphatick word! 2. Consider how few they are who at death are readie and how few they are who at death gett the libertie and blessing to make themselvès readie; some I grant as one theife on the crosse finds mercie, that none may despair, yet its but one that none may presume, but that all may be alarmed to look well and watchfullie to themselves; many will goe to hell no doubt who will seek to enter into heaven and yet will not be able, a sort of whinging and youlling at death may be in verie godlesse and Atheisticall persons, because they did not begin in tyme to seek to enter, as the scope of that parable sheweth; if ye heard the language of many in hell. O! How would they to the life preach this point? Bewar of dallieing and putting off the time, many that are there did ye hear them speak would rea∣dily say. O! That was our ruine and did undoe us; but if the word of God doe not affect you, nor work you up to the serious consideration of this though one should rise from the dead and preach to you, it would not affect you to any advantage. 3. Consider that the longer ye be of thinking on death it will be the terribler when it comes, serious and suteable thoughts of death before hand would doe much to mitigat the terrour of it, but when death comes violently and suddenly on you and finds you setled and sitten downe in the world and will needs have you loosed and raised Page 10 it is in that case indeed as the King of terrors, whereas if ye wer dieing daylie and by converseing with death came to have experience as it wer of litle deathes be∣fore hand, that would make death itself when it should come much more easie, if especially ye wer dieing to your lusts and Idoles, mortified to the world and to the things that are in it, death should have in that case but litle to doe when it came; for it is the cleaving of your hearts to these things and your being glued to them that makes death so terrible, for it will not tryst nor treat, but suddenly and inexorablie seperat you and them. 4. Consider the longer ye be a begining to mind your eternall state and to think seriously of dieing ye will have the more to doe when death comes; O! There is much work about dieing even to these who have been thinking on it, how to gett faith in Christ right, how to gett themselves rolled on the everlasting covenant for salvation, how to be in a patient calme and composed frame to incounter the terrors that ac∣companies death, how to be weaned from the world and to have their affections heavenly; sure the longer ye putt off ye will have the more to doe and will readi∣lie be the lesse able to doe it; and is it wisedom think ye, to leave your greatest and most necessarie work to your last, weakest, and unfittest time to goe about it? Which yet alace is the lamentablie foolish, demen∣ted, ruefull, and soul-ruining practice even of many hearers of the Gospell; there is none of these things but it must be done before death or not at all; what's in the bargane or bussinesse then? O what is in it? It's not ten or tuentie thousand years happines or mise∣rie but ane eternitie of happines or miserie in the great∣est measure and highest degree that can be imagined; and should such a bussinesse be delayed and putt off? And this is even it in the Text by which dieing in the Lord is so much commended.
Now before I close this Sermon let me speak a word Page 11 to what it is to die in the Lord, which is holden forth as the great and necessarie qualification of them that die with well grounded confidence and warantablie expect happinesse; and there are three Scripture-phra∣ses that conduce verie much to the opening up of it. 1. It implyes a being in Christ as that word is, 2 Cor. 5: 17. If any man be in Christ be is a new creature, this holds out union with him by faith, when Christ openeth his armes and takes the soul in to himselfe which flieth to him closeth with, and cleaveth to him lyke a graft that is imped in the stock, or lyke the manslayer sheltred in the citie of refuge; this is the first step and ground of happinesse and it hath with it a new nature and a new life. The 2 phrase is Gal. 2: 21. I live yet not I but Christ liveth in me, and the life that I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the sone of God, and this is a step furder, when a man by faith is fled to Christ & improves and makes use of his title to him and interest in him for performing the acts of life; this living in Christ or by the faith of Christ expresseth and holdeth forth a new nature and life in the acts of life in bringing forth the fruits of the Spirit, and makes the person indeed a Christian man or man-christian, doe∣ing not onlie the duties of religion, but all his morall, civill, and naturall actions to Christ living thus Chris∣tian lyke, as spirituall and from the Spirit, as the word is, 2 Cor. 5: 5. Living not to ourselves but to him &c. 3. There is a dieing in the Lord here in the Text which followes upon the former; living in him is the way to happinesse and dieing in him is the verie doore thrugh which he entereth into the possession of happinesse; now this dieing in the Lord presup∣poseth the former and hath somewhat more in it, to witt, as ane acting of faith for living in him, so ane acting of faith for dieing in him; it takes in; 1. a flieing to Christ a fresh and of new for refuge, as it is Philip. 3. vers. 9. A seeking to be Page 12 found in him, leaping as it wer out of ourselves and betakeing ourselves to him as our ship to sail in thrugh death to life, renunceing our own righteousnesse of new and closeing with his, yea and renunceing the verie acts of our faith as they are acts. 2, It takes in a giv∣ing of credit to Christ for bearing us thrugh death, acquiesceing in, and resting on him on that ground, sticking closse by our gripes of him, being well con∣tent and satisfied to adventure to goe thorow death in his hand, and haveing gotten a word from Christ re∣solvedly to keep the grippe of it, and with old Simeon to say now lets thou thy servant depart in peace; Lord I am content to take shipping, as it wer, in Christ & in that bottome to saile throw the gulfe of death when thou will. 3. It taketh in a humble quiet∣ing and satisfieing of ourselves on this ground, not only delyting ourselves in him as alsufficient, but comforting ourselves in our thus resting on him & counting ourselves happie in it: something of all these last three we will find holden forth in these called the last words of David his swan-like song when he is goeing to die, 2 Sam. 23. vers. 5. Although my house be not so with God, yet he hath made with me ane ever∣lasting covenant; here is the first step his betakeing of himselfe and flieing for his life to the grace of God in Christ holden out in the covenant. 2. He goes for∣ward and concredits himselfe to and contents himselfe in this covenant calling it a well ordered and sure cove∣nant, able & sufficient to doe his turne, O! its a tight veshell that cannot have a leck, as if he had said, I may sail thrugh death in it safely & not fear. 3. There is his delyting and satisf•…eing himselfe in it, his ac∣quiesceing in it, this is all my salvation and all my desyre its all my heart can wish, its mensura voti, the verie outmost measure of my wishes, I need no more & I desy•…e no more. Now when we speak of dieing in the Lord we would have you to take all these three Page 13 steppes togither. 1. Studie to be in him, there is no possible dieing in him without being in him, any that would be happie by dieing in him would by all meanes accept of the offer of the Gospell, flee to Christ for refuge & close with him by faith, and en∣deavour to putt that out of question that ye are in him; O! Make it sure that thou hast given him a soul to save, and acquiesce in him as thy saviour. 2. Live by faith in him, there is none that can expect to die in Christ that never seriously sought to live in him, make it manifest that ye live in him by haveing another sort of life then brutish men still in their naturall state have; God may call a thiefe on the crosse and make him die in Christ that hes not lived in him, but none of you can comfortablie expect that he will deall so with you, and where one is so dealt with, tuentie if not a Hun∣dreth, even verie many die without it: and let me say it if ever at any time God was strikeing men and women with stupiditie at death, it is palpable he is strikeing many so in this time; it may be some of you may know Gods strikeing some with stupiditie that made a mock of the serious exercise of Godlinesse in their life time; therefore I say againe make your being in christ sure, evidence your being in him by your living in him & to him. We shall not insist further at this time on this subject, God calls us all seriously to think on it; sicknesse, smiteing with Judgments and death have not readily been more frequent, & if ever there was a time when folke wer called to beleive and lay to heart such a doctrine this is the time; it may be there are some here who ere a few dayes goe by may experience the truth of it, and who knows who these some shall be? As ye exspect happines learne to die, and as to die in Christ so to live in him; and as the Lord bidds Iohn write these words, so we bid you read them & think often on them, blessed are the dead, that die in the Lord, from hence∣forth saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours and their works doe follow them.
Revel. 14: 13.
THere is one thing common to all men and that is a naturall inclination to, and ane appetite and de∣syre after happinesse or blessednesse, but there are two things wherein the most part of men doe exceidingly erre; 1. In seeking blessednesse where it is not to be found and in accounting that to be blessednesse which is not so, but leaves them eternallie miserable. 2. That when some glances of happinesse and wherein it consists are gotten they grosslie mistake the way to come by it; these words give a notable description of true blessednesse, and a clear direction towards the way how to come at it, they shew plainly where it lyeth, let the blind and prejudicat world esteem of it as they will, blessed are the dead which die in the Lord, that is only true blessednesse which the dead in the Lord injoy, and thats the only way to true blessed∣nesse, to be in Christ & to live & die in him.
This is a most concerning subject and singularly sute∣able to our times; it being probablie with respect to these times that the words are spoken, we shall therefor proceed to add a litle to what we said the last day.
The doctrine which we shall now propose and pro∣secute lyeth plainly and obviously in the verie words of the text, they are blessed and happie, yea they are only blessed and happie that are dead in the Lord Christ or shall die in him; a voice from heaven asserts Page 15 it to Iohn, and the Spirit adds a confirmation of it, yea sayes the Spirit, who is the Spirit of Christ and the Spirit of truth; we shall ere we proceed further in a word or two cleir these things in the doctrine which are also in the words. 1. What this blessednesse is? It is spoken of here as that which is singularly so, its the only happie condition that can be truly thought of in all the world, its even to be fullie and compleitly blessed. 2. What is the necessary qualification of these persons who are pronunced to be blessed? Its not these that die, but these that die in the Lord that are thus blessed; and for cleiring of this beside what we said the last day we shall now adde, that there are two sorts of dieing spoken of in Scripture. 1. There is a dieing in sin, if ye beleive not in me, ye shall die in your sinnes, sayes Christ to the Jewes Iohn 8. vers. 24. and this implyes two things. 1. Ye shall die under the guilt of your sinnes, and under the curse and wrath of God which ye deserve, before death, at death, & af∣ter death. 2. Ye shall die in a sinfull estate in oppo∣sition to repentance for sin, ye shall slip away and be removed in that sinfull condition, ye shall depart and goe off the world in that sinfull state, O sad & sorrow∣full departure! 2. There is a dieing in the Lord and this implyes two things also just opposit to dieing in sin. 1. That persons in the sense of their sin have betaken themselves to Christ and are freed from the guilt of sin by faith in him and are cloathed with his righteousnesse or with a right and title to it. 2. It implyeth a break∣ing off of the course of sin, and the bringing forth the fruits of a new nature and life, by a livlie faith in Christ in whom as the true vine they are as so many branches grafted abyding in him and bringing forth fruit to him that his father may be glorified and they manifested to be his disciples Iohn 15. Who as they have union with him by faith, so they have communion with him in the fruits of sanctification; these and these only are Page 16 thus blessed, and this blessednesse is restricted unto and intailed upon them only, and peremptorly denyed to all others and they utterly excluded from it.
In prosecuting the doctrine I shall, 1. Cleir the truth of this, that they are blessed, exceedingly blessed and only blessed who are dead or shall die in the Lord. 2. I shall offer two or three reasons proveing that this blessednesse is peculiar to them and not to any other. 3. I shall speak a litle to the use and improvement of it.
For cleiring of the first, that they are exceedingly blessed that are dead or shall die in the Lord, we need to doe no more but to describe happinesse or blessed∣nesse, & we will find it exactly to agrie in all its prop∣perties and circumstances to them that are dead or shall die in Christ; O! Sirs look not on this as a storie or some airy notion, but as that which is a great realitie, a thing which some of our Christian acquaintance dead in the Lord doe now enjoy, and which others ere long shall enjoy, and that which by faith in him ye may all enjoy if ye prejudge not yourselves of it; there are two things necessarie to, and constitutive of, true blessednesse or happinesse, 1. Ane absolute freedome from all evil, from every thing that troubles or may be the cause of trouble, and from any sinfull blame∣able or unsuteable defect or want, for happinesse cannot consist or stand with any thing of that kind. 2. A concurrence of all the good things that are ne∣cessarie to compleit blessednesse or happinesse, both which are injoyed by all these that die in the Lord and by them only.
For the first part of it they that die in•… he Lord are perfectlie freed from all evil, which holds true whither we look to it more generallie or with more particu∣lar respect to the scope; they are freed from all these evills that ane evil time hath with it: to descend into the particular consideration of this blessednesse would Page 17 not be easie, let us only therefore look on some generall heads to clear it so farr forth as concerns t•…e present point. 1. They have freedome from all sin that is the fountaine of all evils; the Spirits of just men are made perfect, before the throne no flesh or blood as corrupt is permitted to enter in there, no rebellion in the law of the members against the law of the mind is there, no remainder of the evil heart of unbeleife in drawing a back from the living God, nor any wearie∣ing of holie duties but a delightfull serveing of God day and night, that is, without any the least interrupti∣on, for there is not day and night, but constant day in that life, then O! Then is that petition so often putt up to him in his peoples prayers, thy will be done as it is in heaven, fulfilled, there is then a most per∣fect doeing of is will, there his servants serve him, in such Spiritually noble state as he was never •…erved by them on earth; this light, vain and unstable heart shall then be established and even fixed as ane immove∣able pillar in the temple of God, the loosnesse of a wavering gauding and wandring mind shall then be 〈◊〉 and for ever removed, and the thoughts of it so strongly stayed in the contemplation of that most bles∣sed object that they shall not for so much as one mo∣ment be diverted, there will not then be any the least inclination to, nor capacitie of a diversion▪ O! What would some give (wer it to be bought) for this part of happinesse? even to be fully and finally delivered from a body of death and from the many si•…ull pranks of it, and the dangerous precipices it drives them upon? 2. They have perfect freedome from all tentations to sin, there doeth not in that most clear and serene upper region breath the least air of tenta∣tion, there is no tentation to sin from without as there is no inclination to sin from within and consequent∣lie there is a full freedome from all fear of hazard and danger o•… sinning, no unclean thing comes within the Page 18 gates of the new Ierusalem; sin and death & the devil being cast into the lake; there is no evil example there, but on the contrary if there wer any need of stirring up, strengthening and encouradging one of another, its there eminently; there is withall there a ho∣lie freedome from the difficultie that is in watching here, which though it be a requisit usefull and necessa∣rie dutie in sojourning saints yet it hath with it a pain∣fullnesse and fear, from which the dead in the Lord even triumphing saints are perfectly freed. 3. They are freed from all challenges for sin, they have there no troublesome nor disquieting exercise of conscience, the immediat enjoyment of Gods companie so quiets and satisfieth them, that nothing can disquiet them; there they are under no desertion nor fear of desertion, and these are often two sad exercises to the godly here, the challenges of their conscience for sin, and the weights on their Spirits because of desertion; there is moreover no lukewarme nor any lyfelesse Spirituall condition there, but a condition alwayes fresh, livlie and at the verie best, they are continually praising in the sense of the love of God overflowing them in duty: the dead in the Lord must then certainly be in a most happie condition when they are freed from all these & from all fear of them. But 4. they are freed from all the effects of sin, there is no curse, no wrath, no sicknesse of body, no anxietie of mind there, no terror nor apprehension of indignation; no povertie no scar∣si•…ie nor want to them of any thing there (how poor soever a life they may have here), but God is all and in all, he by himselfe immediatly fills the roume of all things, and fills up the vastest capacities of the soul; they are also freed from all the tossings and troubles that are here in this lower world, there are no confin∣ings nor fynings, no sequestrations nor forefaultures or hazard of loseing estates, no quarterings of soul∣diers to discompose the quiet and tranquillitie of fami∣lies Page 19 there, which some would think a peice of happi∣nesse to be quyt of; there is no reproach, no discre∣dit nor disgrace there, but a new name given; there are no mistakes nor jealousies, no alienations nor ani∣mosities, no rents nor divisions, no unsuteable passi∣ones nor heats there, but a most comely and compleit union and holie harmonie in the praising of God, there is no darkenesse of mind there, the understanding being perfectly enlightened, no disorder in the affecti∣ons, but a most exact regularity, no preversenesse nor backwardnesse in the will, but a most thorrow com∣plyance in all things with the will of God, all within the man sweetly conspiring in a holie harmonie & in a due subordination to the head; there is no scandal or offence given nor taken there; there is no sadning reports nor ill news there; nay its impossible there can be, since God orders all immediatlie; and they ap∣prove all that he does, they applaud to, and are well satisfied with all; there are no overturnings of King∣domes and states, nor confusions or desolations in Churches to marr their happinesse there; but they being fullie acquainted with the infinitly wise proceed∣ings of God, there is nothing that can marr their happinesse, suppose they knew all these overturnings confusions and distractions that make us sad here be∣low; they cannot be troubled with the want nor with the fear of the want of any thing, and thus they conti∣nue to be for ever and ever; yet this is but a litle peice of their happinesse that die in the Lord, how smal a portion of it doe we know?
As to the other halfe of their happinesse (and O! That ye knew and beleived what the happinesse is which they have that are now before the throne) we said in generall that there is in it a concurrence of all good things necessarie for makeing of them com∣pleitly happie; and it must have these four things con∣curring to this end which are all in their estate who die Page 20 in the Lord. 1. Ane enjoying of God the chiefe good, for no other thing nor person can communicat true happinesse nor make one trulie happie. 2ly. Be∣cause there cannot be ane enjoying of him without some suteablenesse to him, therefor a suteablenesse for the enjoyment of God is required, for we could not, we dought not fullie and immediatlie enjoy God in the estate wherein we now are. 3ly. It requires full measures and degrees of enjoying God. 4ly. It re∣quires a perpetuall and eternall enjoying of him, and all thir concurr, as I said, to compleit the happinesse of them that die in the Lord. 1. They doe fullie injoy God the cheife good, look where Abraham is there are they, he is in the Kingdome of his father, & so are they, and therefor most happie; hence it is that Christ speaking of blessednesse to his disciples he tells them that they shall sitt with Abraham Isaac and Iacob in the Kingdome of heaven, Matth. 8. vers. 11. they have places among them that stand by, Zech. 3. vers. 7. they see his face and are therefor happie, blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God, Matth. 5. vers. 8. when we speak of enjoying God, it is far very far above and beyond what we can expresse; it must sure be a great happinesse and delight when the object of their delight is no created thing, but the in∣finit and alsufficient God, it must be a pure heavenly and excellent delight that flowes from the enjoyment of God with whom is the fountaine of life. 2ly. They are made meet and suteable to enjoy him in a full mea∣sure and in a high degrie; if we would imagine man's understanding to be inlarged to conceive of God, and the inlargement of it to be verie far beyond that which we can now Imagine or conceive, it shall▪ be thus di∣lated and filled; it shall then have a distinct and fullie satisfieing knowledge of the great mysterie of the ado∣rable trinitie, as Christ assures his disciples, Ioh. 14. vers. 20. At that day ye shall know that I am in thePage 21father, the affections shall then be made capacious to receave & shall be filled and satisfied with delight in the enjoyment of that clearlie and distinctly known object; it satisfies Angels and must satisfie the Spirits of just men made perfect, it makes them happie to behold and enjoy him, and the greatest happinesse that the Scripture speaks of, is to be in Christs companie, beholding the glorie that he hes gotten from the father; and if ye could suteablie conceive what con∣dition David, Paul, and some that have gone a few years or moneths since into that blessed rest are in, it would make you long to die in the Lord, and would thrugh grace put you to give all diligence in time to make that happinesse sure. 3ly. As they are made suteable and meet to enjoy God in a full measure and high degrie, so they shall enjoy him in a full measure and degrie actually, there is no more desyred nor de∣syreable, it is full glorie and full joy, none can ima∣gine or wish more, it being a thing to which there can be no accession made according to the capacitie that they are put into; for though there be different de∣grees of glorie and some conceave and receave more and some lesse, yet all are filled even filled with the love and loveing-kyndnesse of God with that fullnesse of joyes and these pleasures that are at his right hand; and they have all this not in bare notions but most real∣lie and in ane incomprehensible way (to us now at least incomprehensible) communicated to them. 4ly. This enjoying of God is perpetuall and eternall, for ever & ever without interruption or intermission, its not only a full but ane everlasting joy and glorie, sor∣row and sighing shall then for ever flee away, and everlasting joy shall be upon their heads for evermore, the croune is ane eternall and immarcessible one even a croune of life that is perpetually floorishing; yet all that we have said falls hugely short of, and as to our manner of expressing it, unworthie to be compared Page 22 with the happinesse of them that die in the Lord; if any of them heard us speak of their condition they would wonder to hear us doe it so childishlie, poorly, meanly & bauchly; O! That we could streatch our∣selves to believe that which we cannot so distinctly conceave of this blessednesse.
The next thing I proposed to speak a word or two to, is the reasons why blessednesse is peculiar only to them that die in the Lord and not to any others; I shall shortlie hint at three, the 1. whereof is, be∣cause only they that die in the Lord Christ are made partakers of his satisfactione, and therefor they and they only are freed from the curse by beleiving in him, Iohn 3: 36. He that beleiveth on him is not condemned but hath everlasting life, but he that beleiveth not is condemned alreadie and the wrath of God abideth on him, Iohn. 3. vers. 18. & 36. They that beleive have gotten a discharge of their debt, the hand-writing that was against them is cancelled; but they that beleive not have the bond still standing over their heads, and they for their debt undischarged shall be hailed before the Judge and cast in prison where they must lye till they pay the utmost farthing which will never be done.
2. Because they only that are in Christ and die in him are priviledged with the adoption of sonnes, and conse∣quently they only have right to heaven and eternall life, to as many as receaved him he gave power to become the son∣nes of God, that is, to as many as beleived on his name, Joh. 1. 12. And if sonnes then heirs and joint heirs with Christ, Rom. 8: 17. If we be not sonnes then are we not heirs.
3. Because only they that live and die in Christ are new creatures, if any man be in Christ he is a new crea∣ture, 2 Cor 5. vers. 17. And in Christ Iesus nothing availls but a new creature, Gal. 6: 15. Except a man be borne againe he cannot enter into the Kingdome of heaven, John 3. vers. 3. And there being none borne againe but they that are in Christ, and our regenera∣tion Page 23 and faith in Christ goeing inseperablie togither, none can be happie but these that live and die in him.
We come now in the 3d place according to the me∣thod proposed to speak to the uses of this doctrine, which must needs have many uses being such a high point as holds forth the right way and the only way to true blessednesse.
The first use then is to put us all to be more seriouslie exercised how to die well, & that is to die in the Lord; seeing happinesse and such a happiness depends on it, & only on it, then sure folkes should be exceedingly con∣cerned to walk by this midle, of dieing in him as they would meet with happinesse at the end. There are many things that presse this; as 1. if peace and tranquillitie of mind and conscience be of concernment, then this is of concernment, for how can they possiblie have peace that know not whither they shall goe to heaven or hell? 2. If comfort in any thing or all things be of concernment, then this is of concernment, for how can men's sleep, meat, drink, apparrell, or any thing they enjoy be comfortable to them if they know not that they are in him and shall die in him? This one word may marr all their mirth and happinesse, that they that are not in him shall die miserablie and so lo•…e all other comforts. 3. If it be of concernment to have boldnesse and confidence to god-wards at death, this is of concernment; for if death sadlie sur∣prize men how can they have peace, confidence or boldnesse since they are not in him? All the world cannot buy nor purchasse a quiet and good conscience to them. 4. If we think heaven or happinesse to be of concernment, then this is no doubt of concern∣ment, for heaven and happinesse are knitt to dieing in him; and therefor let me in the name of the Lord lay it upon you, by all suteable means to endeavour to bear it upon your verie hearts to have your peace with God made in time, that die when ye will, it may be Page 24 made sure that it shall be in him; think ye that to be eternally in •…e•…ven or in hell is of litle concernment? Its your way of dieing that makes the difference, as the tree falls so it will ly; there will be no revocking of that sentence nor any change of your state after death; and knowes any of you when it will come? Are any sure to gett time or grace then to make peace with God when seiknesse and death comes? Are there not many striken wish hardnesse, sensless•…esse and conscience benuming stupiditie at their death? Re∣member therefor that death is coming and studie to have this much in your eye.
To prosecute this use a litle and to reprove the great stupiditie that the most part live in as i•… they cared not how they die, (for how live many grosslie prophane and Atheisticall men, as i•… they wer to die like beasts? And now many presumptuous hypocrites are there, that think it a veri•… easie matter to die, yea that it is nothing; and how many are there who have frequent fears and convictions especially at death, who yet never come this length to make it sure on good grounds that their sinnes are laid on Christ, and to make it their great bussinesse to have their corruption mortified by his grace that they may die in him? And how many are there that have some good in them w•…o are verie lasie and carelesse and who in a manner let death come as it will?) We shall seeing it is of such mightie concernment) presse it on you by a familiar laying before you some things that are verie ordinarie to men and women at death▪ we look a•…ace upon death 〈◊〉 off, but we should bring it neir to us and have it alwayes before us, the neglect whereof makes folke verie ordinarly to die as they live, and thats not well nor in the Lord: there are four cases or conditions that we most ordinarlie meet with in the pluralitie of them that die. 1 We find some senslesse and stupid without any fear of God or regaird to their souls, they Page 25 lived a stupid life without all fear and aw of the majestie of God, and they die so, thus Churlish Nabal died as he lived most stupidly and senselessly; it might possi∣blie be edifieing though verie sad to speak of the lamen∣table condition of some gracelesse persons that die among us; therefor putt away senselessnesse and stupi∣ditie now alonge your life, as ye would not die sense∣lesse and stupid. A 2d sort of persons we meet with who have been p•…esumeing all their dayes, and will needs pertinaciously disput it out at their death that all shall be well with them; and though it may be palpa∣blie discerned that they are without all due sense of sin and utterly void of grace, yet they will confidently averre that they be e•…ved all their dayes, and will not quyt their deluding hopes that all shall be well with them now at death; O! Sirs think ye that to be a good condition, to die without sense of sinne, and with wersh, teastlesse, lifelesse and groundlesse appre∣hensions of mercie; dread therefor and deprecat pre∣sumption; O! But its hard to get some of you con∣vinced of it, and yet it is a speciall thing that keeps you from coming in good earnest to Christ. A 3d sort are these that die with some litle challenges, and at the best with much doubting, and many feares who have had their own convictions fears and doubtings in their life, and yet never laboured in Gods way, to be thrugh in the matter of their interest in, and peace with God; they are affrayed to die, and yet die they must, the faith they had mi•…gives them, and the strong appre∣hensions they have of wrath quite overturnes their con∣fidence and hope, the just recompence of living in a doubtfull and doubting condition without serious seeking after thorrow clearnesse; I grant this condi∣tion is somewhat better then any of the former two, and yet ane evil and dangerous condition to die in; words sp•…ken to them doe neither satisfie nor setle them, for either they have litle Judgment or tentations Page 26 are strong and vigorous, or bodily infirmitie is growing fast on them. There is a 4th sort of selfe-righ∣teous persons, that please themselves with a hope of heaven, because they have been good neighbours, and lived harmlesslie, they wer not grossly prophane, they wer not drunkards, swe•…rers, sabbath-breakers nor extortioners &c. But civil and honest, faithfull and just in their deallings and their callings, they had prayer in their families and in secreet, they waited on ordinances &c. And at death they confirme them∣selves from these grounds that all shall be well; we condemne not duties, God forbid, but its a sad and hazardous case when they are mainly laid weight on and stuck to at death; such selfe-justifiers are brought in by the Lord Luke 13. saying Lord we have eaten and drunken in thy presence &c whom yet he boasts away from him; see how the proud and selfe-justifieing Pharasie on such grounds as these is sent away unjusti∣fied Luke 18. folkes habituating themselves to these grounds of confidence in their life-time makes them stick stiffly to them at their death, and keeps them from seeing the absolute necessitie of Christs imputed righteousnesse, and from fleeing to it for their justifi∣cation.
The 2d Use is of exhortation to stir up yourselves from these considerations to think on death more seriously, and how ye may die in the Lord; and to this end we shall propose three questions that ye would lay your account to be putt to answer at death.
1. Think how ye will answer the challenges that death will readilie bring alonge with it and urge you for a sa∣tisfieing answer unto, where there hath been a negli∣gent life there will be many challenges, yea where there hath been a diligent life there will not be challen∣ges wanting, ye would see how to prevent or answer these; I shall instance only in fyve of them. 1. When this comes, thou hast stiffled many good purposes and Page 27 resolutions, or suspended the consciencious execution and practice of them, thou hast delayed and putt off from day to day the making of thy peace with God, how wilt thou answer that? When conscience begins to reflect and look back and to aske how is all? Is the house out of order thrugh thy negligence? Tell me man what is the reason thou made not thy peace with God sure before this time? Didest thou shuffle by such and such a dutie when thou wast called to it and when it was pressed on thee? Why didst thou forbear to mortifie such and such a lust? Consider, O •… Con∣sider how ye will answer such a challenge when ye will not dar to adventure on death▪ and yet will not be able to put it off, O secure Atheists and contem∣ners of Godlinesse consider in time what ye will say to this. 2. Another challenge will be this, the con∣science will say thou hast been bussied in following after some vaine Iust, bussie about the bigging of a house, about the gathering of some gear or riches, about makeing conqueist of such a peice of land &c. Now what will all these advantage thee? And what profite hast thou of all these things whereof thou art now ashamed? Why didest thou sett thine eyes on, why bestowed thou so much labour and spent so much time and pains on that which cannot satisfie, on that which is not? What good will they then doe to thee? It shall be said to thee, fool this night thy soul shall be taken from thee and then whose shall these things be; what advantage is there or can there possiblie be in gaining the wholl world if thou lose thy own soul? And O! What grounds of such challenges are there in this generation? A thing which when death comes will stick to and gnaw in the consciences of many of you that hear me this day, even that you have been cumbred and carefull about many things while in the mean time the one thing necessary hath been postponed and quite neglected. A 3d challenge, the ground Page 28 whereof is alace verie common, will be, carelesse sloathfull and idle triffling away and mispending of precious time, and neglecting the great work of sal∣vation, easie letting passe without improvement opportunities of getting good and doeing good, when ye shall looke back and ask yourselves what have we been doeing in this our day? And the conscience will answer and say, ye wer vainlie discoursing or tipling or vaiging and wandering thorrow the feilds bussied in doeing nothing or worse then nothing, then ye will cry but in vaine, O! To have some of these precious oppor∣tunities back againe, that we thought litle of when we had them; we have past 30. or 40. years time in the world, and yet are no surer of our salvation now then when we came into it, but we have much more sin and guilt then we had; Ah! Will some say we have lived 50. or 60. years and yet none of all that time hath been well spent. A 4th challenge will be, folks formali∣tie & hypocrisie in the worship of God, that they came to the Church to hear, but sleeped or wandred and wer nothing carefull to profite, that they satt downe and prayed, but wer not in earnest in it, never sought after the Spirit of grace and of supplications, it may be they prayed in their families, and in secreet, but when the conscience lookes back and sees that all hath been but formall and hypocriticall work, that they knew not what communion with God was, they knew not neither cared to know whither their persons wer accepted and their prayers heard, they studied not experimentally to be acquainted with the life & pow∣er of godlinesse, O! How sad will this be? And how will it all be gote answered? A 5th challenge will be abuseing of many means of grace, of many mer∣cies and favours, such as Sabbaths, Sermons, Con∣ferences &c. that ye lived not under heathnish or Antichristian darknesse, but where the pure light of the Gospell shined clearly, that ye might have known Page 29 the right way and would not, that ye might have made use of such ane Instrument, of such a Sermon, of such fellowship, of such a book &c. And it would have been better with you, but ye did not, ye would not; the conscience will say, here ye wer negligent, there ye dallied, here ye wearied, and there ye satt up and gave over, and what can ye now answer for all? There are many in Glasgow and else where, that will meet with this challenge if not with Gods Judgment for the sinnes whereon it is founded; as ye would die in the Lord, for Christs sake, studie to prevent such challenges, and to gett them scored out by timeous turning to God in Christ and seriousnesse in the way of faith and holinesse; for assuredly death will bring alonge with it many moe and many other challenges then most have now while they live and are in health, they will prick & byt in ane other manner then quick∣lie transient lighter touches of convictions doe now.
The 2d Question we would propose is, how will ye answer some peculiar tentations that death useth to bring alonge with it; for tentations are then more slie and subtile as challenges are more loud and peirceing, and the devil is then more then ordinarly bussie, and if tentations be then yeilded to, he hath almost win the cause; O! Consider how ye will answer these tentations; I shall only instance these fyve tentations that use to assault and sett upon folk at death; the 1. is a tentation to fretting against Gods dispensation in removeing and calling away a person at such a time and under such circumstances, which frett∣ing floweth from a unwillingnesse to die; O! As enimitie will be ready to burst out in being angrie at Gods chopping by death at the man in the midst of such a designe and project or before he gott such a bar∣gane ended, such a purchasse made, or such a child provyded for &c. And if the devil prevail by this ten∣tation to fretting and repining at divine disposall, it Page 30 will marr the fruit of any thing that might be then ex∣pected, and will further estrange you from God that ye cannot come neir him, and yet O! How ryfe is such a tentation? Studie to walk therefore in a sweet plyablenesse and readinesse to die, for if ye goe on fol∣lowing one designe after another, and one wordlie bussinesse after another without this studie, ye will be taken unawarse suddenly surprised in the midst of them as many are, and be in eminent hazard of being pre∣vailled over by this tentation to fretting and grudging at deaths arreasting though by the great and righteous Judge his order. A 2d tentation is to Atheisme, for as folke have lived in Atheisme, so the devil assaults them by tentations to Atheisme at their death, to make them despyse death and desperatly to harden themselves against it, and with a profaine and dam∣nable sort of delicacy Agag like to throw themselves into the pitt; hence many desperat soules who as they tushed alonge their life at the thoughts of death, so when death comes they trouble not themselves with it, but shake off all fear and studie a sort of godlesse gallantrie of Spirit, and seeing they must die they will die, and will not so much as seem to regaird it; but will ye that way outface the wrath of God and dar to laugh in takeing the cup of his indignation in your hands? It is true, I grant it is a peece of Gods dread∣full justice that these who have not stood in aw of him in their life, should die Judicially hardened, but such will meet with a most fearfull wakening after it. A 3d tentation is to presumption and hypocrisie, which prevaills especially with civil and formall professours, that dought never abyd to be evened to hell, nor could ever indure to be called naturall folke; as such did presume and wer hypocriticall in their life, so the same tentation sticks to them and prevaills over them at death; and they will it may be, speak something of the consolations of God with their mouths when Page 31 they have no feilling of them in their hearts, and of faith in Christ when yet they never knew the reall exercise of it, and will need like the foolish virgins goe forth with the wise to meet the bridgroome keep∣ing their lamps till their verie death; that same prin∣ciple of Hypocrisie that made them dissemble in their life will make them speak many good words for a name at their death; therefore bewar of it, hunt not after a name of religion, and affect not to be accounted and to be called somebody, but seek to be sincere, to be reallie that which ye seem to be, and when ever a challenge comes for this, rather entertaine it and make some good use of it then shake it off, for though ye could passe away undiscovered by man, God will find you out and discover you; and often not a few of such persons make such discoverie of themselves, that a discerning eye will see them in their own collours; alwayes I say take notice of it as a mightie tentation, when folke take more paines to faird and paint their condition over with fair words and shews, then to be reall before God, and be upon your guard against it. A 4th tentation is to conceit of selfe-righteousnesse, and which even some holie men at their death have been more troubled with then any other tentation, and it prevaills much with formall professours (such as the Pharasies wer) who as they lived in conceit of it, so readily it cleaves to them at death, such will be readie to say, I thank God I keeped the Church, I was never heard with my neighbours, I dealt truely and Justly with all men, it was Gods goodnesse to me, I was aye on the right side, I read, prayed, keeped the Sabbath &c. These are good in themselves I grant, but not to be laid weight upon and lippened to neither in life nor at death as the main fundation of salvation and consolation, therefore guaird against it as a tentation when ever Satan comes to speak a good word to you in order to merit or deserving. The 5th Page 32 and last is a tentation to doubting yea to desperation, which is not so frequent I grant, yet it prevaills with some who have lived it may be verie secure in their life, and when death comes the devil sayes, ye have never sought God in earnest all your dayes, and now tyme is gone the doore is shutt •…e will not hear you, this may thrugh grace be answered and it would not be strengthened by refuseing the offer of Gods grace even then, especially if God call thick, to say so, and some of the senses it may be begin to fail and to be taken away.
The 3d and last Question is to inquire at you what think ye will be your thoughts at death? And I shall draw forth this also into four or fyve; 1. What will ye then think of the world, of all its pleasures, gain∣es and honours? In health and prosperitie men have big and high thoughts of this and that vanitie, pro∣ject and designe▪ but what will ye think of all outward prosperitie, and of barnes full of corne, of cellars full of wyne, and of houses full of wealth and ric•…es, of high places, honours, credit and repute in the world when death comes to summond you to leave them all? The mind will not feed upon them then, the glorie and splendor of them will then grow dim and dark, they will then lose their blossome and flowr, the teast and sweet relish of them will then quite evanish; hath not the experience of many men who did sweem in pleasures and abound in wealth and honour, verified the truth of this? Have they not found all then to be but vanitie and vexation of Spirit, and have they not some times proclamed them to be so? Yea even it may be before death when under some great paine or sicknesse or some quick and sharpe challenge of conscience; all the man's riches, plea∣sures, and honours could not then ease his mind. 2. What will be your thoughts of the cheiffest grounds ye have to build your peace on now? Ye can presume Page 33 now and have no doubt of your Salvation, but at death your grounds will be narrowly sifted, and in sted of a solid assurance, ye will scarce get a harleing thought of it, to say so, in sted of faith ye will readilie have doubting, and for hope ye will have fear; how many at death have been made to think and even to say, they have been but beguileing themselves? and will not many of you, if God prevent not, think and say so? when ye begin to look on eternitie and Gods Justice, and to find that many things ye have leaned unto, will not then abyd the tryall nor be able to bear the weight of your soules salvation, nor to answer the chal∣lenges which they answered, as it might be, in health; Hence is it that many at death will cry for a Minister and for Prayer, that cared little for their Companie and for that dutie alonge their life, and when the Mi∣nister is come they will then tell him they can doe no∣thing, and indeid they can doe nothing till grace friely give both to will and to doe, but this bids you bewar of putting off till death. 3. When ye draw neir your latter end, and death comes to sit downe on your eye lids, when the eyes and ears begin to fail and eternitie stares you in the face (for I suppose the persons to have still the exercise of their Judgment) what will be your thoughts then? may we not Imagine the thoughts of many will be like these of the poor Heathen Empe∣rour Hadrian, who bespoke his dislodging soul thus, O poor soul whither art thou goeing? And think with yourselves what ye would give for a Sabbath then, for one Sermon then, and when relations and neigh∣bours will be weeping about you and ye groaning un∣der a burden of sin and fear of wrath, and also of paine and sicknesse, and faine would ye stay but ye may not, the soul must goe and not one houres delay will be granted, what think ye would ye give then, and at that hour to be suffered to come back againe, and stay a while here? and yet that hour is not far off from Page 34 many of you, from some not a year, from othersome it may be not a Moneth yea possiblie not a week. 4. What think ye will be the condition of the soul when it goes out and dislodgeth from the bodie, and when the sentence shall be passed, and when Legions of Devils shall harle and drag the soul away to hell the place of Torment that was thinking to goe to heaven; what think ye will be the thoughts of such a soul that in the persons lifetime would have disdained & storm∣ed to hear a Minister or any other eiven it to hell, when it shall be thus unexpectedly seazed on and hur∣ried thither? Doe ye think Sirs that there are no souls in hell, or that few or none at all are in hazard of being there eternally? If ye will deny neither but grant both, doe not then think ye, all they infinitly wrong themselves who securely drive over their time and think not seriously on their dieing in the Lord? which is the scope of all: This Doctrine layes before you Life and Death, Heaven and Hell, if ye live and die in Christ, ye shall get life and be eternally blessed, but if ye live and die in your sinnes in sted of life ye shall without all doubt meet with death, and such a death as ye heard of in the Lecture, a death that hath the Wyne of the Wrath of God without mixture in the Cup of his Indignation, and torment even eternal Torment without any the least intermission or mitiga∣tion, whereby ye will be made everlastingly most mi∣serable. Lastlie, is it not think ye of your unspeakablie great concernment to think seriously on your living and dieing in the Lord before death come? Let me but put this one question to you; what will be the thoughts of many in Hell, who have gotten fair warn∣ing of this ere it come? many of you if grace prevent not will then remember better on this preaching then you will doe a day or two hence, ye may reject and beat back a word now, but ye will not gett it beat back then, but it will take hold of you, it will gall and Page 35 torment you, the Prophets doe not live for ever, sayes the Prophet Zacharie Chap. 1. but the Word of the Lord will live for ever, it will take hold of them that despised it, it will take them by the throat, as it wer, and make them gaspe eternally; The Lord gra∣ciously knock hard at your hearts by this so concerning a truth, that it may have accesse to you, and keep you from slighting of it; Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord, they rest from their labours and their works doe follow them.
Revel. 14: 13.
THere are some things of such concernment to us that if we goe suteablie, seriously & singly about them, we can be hardly too much in them, and therefore these four things that are called mans last things, Death, Iudgment, Heaven and Hell, have been so frequently recommended to Christians as the most constant subjects of their Meditation; and among them all, death ought to have the first place in order at least, it being the door whereby we enter into Judg∣ment, and as men die so they shall rise and may expect a final decision and sentence from the Judge about their eternal state, & the Spirits casting in this to divert Iohn and the Reader a litle from following the series of the Historie, does put a commendation on it, and sayes that it is no digression, for his People to bestow some serious thoughts on it.
The last thing we spoke to was a Doctrine from the Page 36 words as they lye, that they and they only are blessed who die in the Lord; now ere we further prosecut the main uses of the Doctrine we shall speak a word to that which is manifestly implyed here, and it is this, that as they are blessed who die in the Lord, so they are exceedingly miserable that die out of him in their sinnes; for the affirming of the one implyes and sup∣poses the other; and it might follow on the former Doctrine as ane use, however its cleirly in the words and commends dieing in Christ to you all, and serves to stirr you up to be serious to make that sure, and therefore we exhort, beseech, and obtest you to count it of concernment even of the greatest concernment unto you, it is to you Men and Women that we speak and not to walls, to timber and stones, sleep not nei∣ther let your minds vaig and wander, for we are speak∣ing the words of truth, that many of you may be made to find the truth of too late.
In prosecuting this Doctrine, we shall speak a litle to the cleiring of both the branches of it, and then come to the use. The first branch is, that there are many that die not in Christ, this is cleirly implyed in the words; Its looked on as a rare thing in the spreading of the Gospel after the reigne of Antichrist to find People dieing in the Lord, he is a rare so a happie man that dies in him. The second branch of it is, that be who they will that die not in him but die out of him in their sinnes, they die exceeding miserably; we shall confirme the first, and then speak a litle to the expli∣cation of the second.
For the first, that there are many that die not in Christ, it appears from Matth. 7. vers. 22. and from Luke 13. vers, 24. These three will confirme it aboun∣dantly; 1. the plaine words of Scripture where Christ speaketh of Heaven as having, for coming to it, a narrow way & a strait gate so that few enter in thereat, and of Hell and Destruction as having a wide gate and Page 37 a broad way into which many enter, and when he speaks of the day of Judgment, he sayes, many shall come to him in that day and say, Lord, Lord, open to us, to whom he will say depart from me I never knew you, and he will sett the goats on his left hand and send them thence into everlasting fire prepa∣red for the Devil and his Angels; these Scriptures speak not only of such as are without the Church, but also if not mainly of many visible Professours, yea even of such as preached in his name, and yet say of them that they die not in Christ. 2. If ye will look to the ordinary connexion that is betwixt mens living and dieing, ye will find that the way of the most part of men declares plainly that they die not in the Lord; for as we shew, mens being and living in Christ must preceid their dieing in him, before they can die in him they must needs be in him; we doe not say that all must be and live so many years in him before they can die in him, but that they must be sometime in him before they can die in him, and that they must live and put forth some acts and breathings of a spiritual life, of the life of Faith in him, if it wer but a few words to Gods glorie and for others edification, or a few sighs, groans, and looks to him; as we may see in the theife on the Crosse though his time was verie short; And if this being and living in Christ must preceid dieing in him, if ye compare it with the most part of your lives, Ah! how sad a prognostick gives it, of what is like to be your way of dieing? How many are there of you that live still in black nature and wer never borne againe? If I could classe the lives of the most part I would essay it. 1. How many are living like Atheists not calling upon God at all, casting off fear and restraining Prayer before him? And as these live so they die for the most part either securely or des∣peratly. 2. How many live in formalitie and never knew what it was to mortifie the Flesh, or sincerely to Page 38 aime at the power of godlinesse, and yet sayeth the Holie Ghost Rom. 8: 13. If ye live after the flesh ye shall die, but if ye through the Spirit mortifie the deads of the body ye shall live; if grace be not in the heart and Kyth not at all in the conversation, ye cannot warran∣tablie expect to die in Christ; except a man be borne againe he cannot enter into the Kingdome of Heaven, this is a large and great classe and takes in all that live and die as they wer borne, and seek not after another life then that which they brought with them into the World. 3. How many are there that have some outward fairding and paint and yet have no realitie of Religion within? Whereby they mock God and dissemble with Men: It is to such that Christ speakes John 8. 21. and tells them that they shall die in their sinnes, and against this sort of men he denounceth many woes. 4. Are there not many that live without Faith in Christ? Without which they cannot possiblie please God nei∣ther living nor dieing, and shall be damned if they continue so, for sayeth the Lord John 3. v. 18. he that beleives not is condemned alreadie: Now when all these Classes are laid aside, there will be but few behind; all which proves aboundantly the truth of the thing, and that there is but too good ground to think that there are manie, verie manie who die not in Christ. A third ground of confirmation of this sad truth may be drawn from the ordinary way that the most part die in, and passe out of time into eternitie; O! how many die securely, stupidly and (as we said before) senselesly, and are no more affected with the thoughts of the immortalitie of their souls then if they had none at all? How many die presumptously con∣fident? how many found their faith of dieing well on wrong grounds? how many die doubtinglie not know∣ing what shall become of them? And how many die desperatly? So that (alace) there are but few among us that close their eyes like dieing Persons in Christ; Page 39 and though we will not be peremptour in passing Judg∣ment upon, or in censureing of particular persons as to their final state, yet all this shews that it is no very common nor ordinary thing to die in the Lord.
As for the second branch of the Doctrine, to witt, that these who die out of Christ in their sinnes, die in exceeding great miserie, It is also very clear, for as the happinesse of them that die in Christ is unexpressi∣blie great, so the miserie and unhappinesse of them that die not in him is also inexpressible, for they are excluded and shut out from God and from all good, and have his wrath, his furious indig∣nation, and his most sever Justice persueing them for ever and ever; we shall onlie consider it brieflie in these two generals; 1. They are put out and secluded from the greatest happinesse that can be Imagined, and that in all the degrees of it. 2. They are concluded and put under the greatest miserie that can be conceaved, and that in all the degrees of it. 1. I say they are shutt out from the greatest happinesse, and that is, from the fellowship of God who is the chief good, from con∣verseing with the Lamb, glorious Angels and Saints, they shall not have one Saint in all their Companie, there is not nor shall be the least evidence of the love of God among all the thousands in Hell, not one drop of cold water to coole the tongue of any of them who are tormented in these fiames, they have Iudgment without the least mixture of mercy, Iam. 1. 13. and that for ever without intermission; they shall never have the least glimmering of light nor the least slaiking or mitigation of their paine, they shall have no rest night nor day; and which aggreageth all even to the verie hight and extremitie, they have no outgate nor hope of it, but lye in utter desperatione under that felt eternal torment; it would be some lightening to the damned in Hell if their torment wer to continue but for some thousands of years, yea or but for some Page 40 millions of thousands of years, as poor Spira said, that it would have been a comfort to him if Hell had been but for twentie thousand years; but it is for ever. And 2. If we look to the other part of it, they are in this hopelesse condition under the greatest miserie drinking for ever of the Wyne of the wrath of God without mixture in the cup of his indignation, which shall be both their meat and their drink; and their companie shall be the Devil and his Angels; O! that we wer serious in speaking and hearing and think∣ing of these things; the Ods and Difference is both great and strange, in stead of shareing in the Glo∣rie of God, of Christ, and of his Angels, to be shareing of the Torment of the Devil and his Angels; If it be a verie evil, nay the verie worst condition, for a Person to have enimitie at God in the hight, and to have God ane everlastingly irreconciliable enemie furiously per∣sueing his quarrel, though without all passion in him, yet with wonderful horrour in the person that is thus plagued, It cannot sure be told to the full, how incon∣ceavably evil and miserable their condition is that die out of Christ, nor what the hazard is that many of you are in, in reference to it.
The first use of this is, for exhorting you not to think it of light or litle concernment how ye die, nor a thing unworthie of your most serious and painefull endeavours to be made sure on good grounds that ye shall die in him; if it be of great concernment to get heaven and to escape hell, to be 〈◊〉 Gods companie and not in the devills for ever, to have love and not hatred to God for ever, and to have Gods love to you & not his hatred for ever (for death casts the ballance); sett, O! Sett yourselves seriouslie to obtaine the one and eshew the other; and there is no way to win at it but by being, living, and dieing in Christ.
A 2d use, serves wonderfullie to check and reprove the senselesse secure multitude that have the common Page 41 profession of the faith of these things, and yet are utterly carelesse to have this most concerning question clearly, distinctly, convincingly, and satisfieingly an∣swered, whither they shall die in the Lord? Certainly there are many of you when your souls shall dislodge that will find yourselves exceedingly mistaken in this matter; O! If we could pitie and lament over the lamentable condition of many of you who are so sense∣lesse, stupid, and unconcerned, that what ever is spoken of the life to come and of the necessitie of making your peace with God thrugh Jesus Christ, it is as if it wer spoken to so many stocks or stones as to any suteable effect it hath upon you, for who of many of you quit their prophannesse, formalitie, hypocrisie, and securitie? Who thrugh grace mends any thing faultie and amisse? Or setts more timeously and seriously about the learn∣ing of this great lesson of dieing in the Lord? The supine, lasie, and grosse neglect of all which, bids you look for and lay your account to meet with the deeper, sorer, and sader challenges at your death and appear∣ance before Gods terrible tribunall.
But it may be asked here, what is the reason that so many die out of Christ? How can this be, seeing they have no happinesse, but so much and so great miserie by it? How cometh it to passe that so many take the one way of living and dieing out of him, and so few choise the other way of living to him and of dieing in him? To insist longe and at large in answer∣ing of this question would lead us to give reasons why men shun and decline the studie of holinesse and will be prophane, why they despyse the Gospel and embrace the world and their lusts; but to leave such generalls we shall speak a word or two more particularly and clossly to this, why it is that so few die in the Lord? And the 1 Reason is this, because the faith of these generall truths that there is a heaven and a hell, a life eternall and a Judgment to come, is scarcely receaved Page 42 by the multitude of the hearers of the Gospell, yea the very faith of their own dieing in particular (though they know they will die and though experience may teach them the same daylie) sincks not into their hearts; who are they that believe practically and with particular application that they will die and come to Judgment, and that they shall be put into ane eter∣nallie unchangeable condition after death? And if this be not indeed beleived then to allude to the Apostles words 1 Cor. 15. our preaching is in vaine and your faith is but vaine; that these things are not reallie beleived we hinted before when we began to speak on thir words, and the practice of most unde∣nyablie proves it; for though all in word professe they beleive that they will die, yet who are they that on the matter mind not to outlive this day, and the next day, and the day following and so on? So that in effect it turnes to this, they would live eternallie here; and this is a root-evil or ane evil root that de∣stroyes many soules; most people are like to these spoken of in the dayes of Noah, Math. 24. eating and drinking, marying and giving in mariage, suffering one day to come and another to goe till death come and surprise them er they be awar, and then are they con∣founded and put thrugh other, to say so, with the very first thoughts and appearances of it: if men wer seriously thinking on death and Judgment and a parti∣cular reckoning with God and wer reallie beleiving these things, is it possible they would thus delyt themselves in their sinfull lusts and pleasures and have their affections so glued to a present world? No cer∣tainly, the thoughts of death and Judgment would putt gall and wormewood in these things and imbitter them. A 2d reason may be drawn from peoples grosse mistakes about the right way of dieing, they take die∣ing in the Lord to be quite another thing then indeed it is, for even as folke mistake all other duties, so Page 43 they mistake this, they take that for repentance, for faith, and for holinesse, which is not repentance, nor faith, nor holinesse indeed; so they take that to be dieing in the Lord which is not dieing in him: and here we shall touch on two or three things which we conceave many take for dieing in the Lord wherein yet they are exceedingly mistaken. 1. They think if they can die without any publick scandal or known sin▪ or without challenges, and if they can gett their pre∣sumptuous conceit and good opinion of themselves keept up to their grave (as if it were eneugh to say Lord Lord open to us) and if they can goe away calm∣ly and quietly like these spoken of, Psal. 73. vers. 4. Who have no bands in their death; that then they are well eneugh and die well, but this is a great mistake. 2. They trow they die well if they die with a sort of hope that it shall be well with them, and for this they will toughly debeat, and when Christ comes and tells them they are beguiled they will hardly trow him, but rather as it wer alleadge that he is mistaken and they are not the men, what? Have we not eaten and drunken in thy presence, have we not heard thee preach in our streets, have we not been at many preachings and communions? We have alwayes had a good hope towards God and why should we now fear death? O! The strong presumption that some die with? And this is another great mistake. 3. Some think if they can die after some prayers and con∣victions and that which they think to be repentance, all will be well, these things indeed if they wer reall, wer good; but how many play the hypocritegregi∣ously in them? There are not a few that fancy they have the grace of repentance because they have some sadnesse for sin, or some litle anxietie or a few chal∣lenges, who yet never tooke seriously with the corrup∣tion of their nature, and the quarrell that God hath with them on that account, Nor ever fled to Christ Page 44 for refuge, but goe away in their fit of carnall sor∣row, and this is another great mistake. 4. Some lay downe a mould of religion of their own, and if they have a civil life with men, and some formalitie of Religion towards God, they think themselves well enough; how many such are there who thus breck their neck at death? O! sad mistake.
A third cause of folkes not dieing in Christ may be this, that there are many who have some right thoughts and apprehensions of dieing well, but they never se∣riously endeavour to bring them to practice, they seek not to have their practice answerable to their light, they in effect make a prisoner of their light, by putting a guard of corrupt affections about it; for either they take ane absolute dispensation to themselves, as to some particular lust or sin, or a libertie for such a time, & when that time is by they intend to quite & abandon such a lust and to think on death, but they will not quite it yet, nor prepare themselves for dieing; they must needs first have their families in such a postour, they must have their children, or such a child provided for & disposed of, they must have such or such a bussinesse put by their hand first; not knowing or not considering that this hardens them and that they dayly become further slaves to such things, and that Judgment may suprize them unawares, before their time come; there are manie that will not denie but a strict way of holinesse is requisite, but they dow not, they cannot prevail with themselves to fall about it yet; and are like that ill and sloathful servant who because the Lord delayed his comeing, went to eat and drink and to take his pastime, but his Master comes in ane hour when he is not looked for, nor the servant awar, & on the sud∣den appoints him his portion with Hypocrites; Ah! is it not thus with the most part, who if they get such a sicknesse put by or such a crosse dispensation over, they think that Christ will byd a while longer, and so still they putt off till it becomes too late.
Page 45A fourth cause may be this, that few are serious in goeing about these things that concerne death, or in minding what will be their own case at death, few ve∣rie few make conscience to examine themselves and to search their bygone wayes, and therefore they know not their hazard; and among the many advantages of selfe-examinatione this is a special one, that it notablie fitts, thrugh Gods blessing, for dieing in the Lord, whereas when it is neglected, souls are keeped still se∣curely sleeping and accounts lye over uncleared and unadjusted, they neither distinctly know their danger nor their need of the remedie; all their Prayers are by guesse and at hap hasard, as it wer, neither can they comfort themselves in any duty they goe about; we name these things not only that ye may know them, but that ye may shun them, and that ye may withall learne to draw some directions and duties out of them for your practice.
We come now to a third and main use of the gene∣ral Doctrine, seeing it is of such concernment to die in the Lord, as it hath eternal happinesse depending upon it, let all of you seriously sett yourselves to fall about such a way of living, as when death comes ye may die in him; As ever ye would attaine to this hap∣pinesse and eshew this miserie whereof ye have been hearing, take I say, such a way of living as death may find you in him.
To cleir and presse this a little I shall speak a word to these three things; 1. Somewhat further to what dieing in the Lord is; 2. To some rules or directions that all, who would solidly comfort themselves in the hope of dieing in the Lord, would make use of, and walk by, in their life. 3. To the necessitie of takeing these di∣rections and walking according to them, even as ye would have the comfort of these that die in the Lord; and of doeing this speedily without delay or dallieing.
For the First, we shall not insist in it haveing touch∣ed Page 46 on it a little before; what we would say of it now, we shall briefly summ up in these two; 1. To some things that are in the affections that accompanie a person that dies in the Lord, or in some propperties that goe alonge with it. 2. In something of the grounds that these flow from.
For the first, there are these three things or prop∣perties that goe alonge with dieing in the Lord, or with them that die in him, that are exceedingly desyr∣able; 1. A dieing willinglie and chearfullie, not goeing to death as to a prison, but as through a trance to a palace, Its a dieing as old Simeon died, Luke 2, Now (saith he) lettest thou thy servant depart in peace for myne eyes have seen thy Salvation; though death be the King of terrors, he heasteneth to it; or it is a dieing as Paul died, who desired to be dissolved and to be with Christ, as being best of all, 2. It is a dieing with holie confidence and boldnesse, not with fear and terrour or anxietie, doubtfullie disputing what will become of them, but being confidently assured of a mansion in Heaven; We know, saith the Apostle, 2 Cor. 5. v. 1, 2. if the earthlie house of this tabernacle be dissolved, we have a building of God ane house not made with hands eternal in the Heavens; for in this we groan earnestlie, de∣syreing to be cloathed upon with our house which is from above; being confident that at death his happie condi∣tion was but as it wer beginning; to die in Christ makes a man to sett himselfe boldlie against death and all its terrors. 3. Its a dieing not only with peace and quiet∣nesse but with complacency and satisfaction, and even so that if the soul had its wish it desyres no more, the man does not frett nor complaine that he is taken from a good and plentiful estate, from a fine and commo∣dious dwelling, from friends & relations, from ho∣nour and repute in the world &c. but he dies with con∣tentment being fullie satisfied with his right and to∣looke to the fair inheritance above, this we may see Page 47 in David, who sweetly sayes & sings, 2 Sam. 23. 5. This is all my salvation and all my desyre, although he make not my house to grow: and therefore he will Ps. 23. walk resolutlie through the Valley of the shadow of death and fear none evil, because the Lord is with him: and indeed it is no smal matter to die these three wayes, willingly, cheerfully, confidently & boldlie, and with quietnesse, contentment, and satisfaction. But secondlie, the grounds that these three flow from doe mainlie answer and determine the questione, for its not a counterfit willingnesse, nor a natural boldnesse or manlinesse of Spirit, nor a carnallie secure peace and quietnesse flowing from senselessnes, but such willingnesse, boldnesse, & quietnesse as come and flow from these 3 pregnant grounds: 1. From peace with God through Jesus Christ, the soul having reallie fled for refuge to Jesus Christ and committed it selfe to him; faith sayes, that is a good, sure, thorow, and everlasting bargane, & so the man rests on it and hath peace. 2, From a good conscience giving a good testi∣monie, which is ane excellent ground to come before Gods Judgment with; the testimonie of a good con∣science either in respect of ane endeavoured blamelesse life, or if the man have not so a good conscience in that respect, but many failings and so many challenges, yet he hath a good conscience in respect of its being sprinkled with the blood of Jesus, thrugh whom all his failings and transgressions are pardoned, which also takes in a good conscience of sincere endeavour to studie holinesse. The third ground is, a livlie and dis∣tinct frame of Spirit, whereby faith hath some pre∣sent acting on Christ, and on the everlasting Covenant even in death, that the soul is by and by to meet with; we will not say but there is a difference amongst thir three; the first of them is simplie and absolutlie necessarie; and the second is necessarie also in one of the two forementioned respects; the third may not be Page 48 alwayes necessarie (for a beleiver may die in the rage of a fever, in a fitt of high distemper, or in a stupi∣fieing palsie) yet it is alwayes to be pursued and sought after, with submission to Gods blessed will, and it conduceth much to the beleivers confidence and com∣fort, to have some present actings of faith in a distinct way on Christ and on the Covenant of grace.
I suppose now that this is such a sweet condition to die in, as there is none of you but would desyre to be in it at your death; but let me say it, the most part takes not the right way to attaine it; Therefor in the second place let me speake a little to these rules and di∣rections that ye must needs seriously, and in the strength of grace endeavour to live by, without which ye can∣not with well grounded confidence promise to your∣selves these comforts at death, and the blessednesse that followes it.
And for the more cleir prosecuting of this, I shall first, in a word put by that which is not the way of dieing in the Lord. And then secondly, I shall at greater length propose to you the way wherein ye should walk, in order to the attaining of this desyre∣able end.
First then, it is not the way of dieing in the Lord, to die in external quietnesse, and with all our friends about us, or in a sort of calmenesse with litle paine or sicknesse, manie heathens, manie carnal and civil men, and manie hypocrites, have died that way; Its but a common outward thing, and manie may, and doe slip quietly into the pitt. Nor 2. Is it to be much taken up with bare wishings and desyreings to die so, nay nor with some esteime of dieing in the Lord, it is good indeed in so far, to wish and desyre it, and to esteime of it, but Balaam who had a most miserable exit, and made a verie wretched end, came that length, Numb. 24. and yet this is a great part of many folks Religion, yea, the almost all of Page 49 it, who it may be will now and then commend it when in a good moode. Nor 3. is this the way of dieing in the Lord, to have some coldrife Prayers to die so, and to be good friends with God, as we use to speake, there are none so gracelesse but seeing that they must needs leave the world, would rather be in Heaven then in Hell, and will readilie have some general de∣syres after it, and words of Prayer for it, but that will not doe the turne, for manie will seek to enter, that shall not be able; Luke 13. v. 24, many will pray to be taken to Heaven that neve•… walked, neither loved to walk, in the right way to it; Nor 4. Is this the way of dieing in the Lord, to be takeing some paines in the exter∣nals of holinesse, to be hearing preachings, and fre∣quenting Communions, if that be all, it will not doe the turne neither: It will not be sufficient that ye heard Christ preach and satt at one table with him; halfeing of holinesse is no holinesse, to be almost a Christian will not make a Christian indeed, there is a necessitie of being a Christian altogither; to have halfe holinesse, and to be almost a Christian onlie, will be but to be halfe saved, and that will be indeed no salvation, but will period in eternal damnation, and so cannot be dieing in the Lord. Nor 5. Is it to die with a per∣swasion in our own mind, but ill grounded, that we are in him and that all shall be well, manie take them∣selves to be well and in a good and safe condition, be∣cause they trow it, and fancie that they are so, and they are verie unwilling and loath to let themselves think ill of themselves: When we speak then of dieing in the Lord, it must be such as will abide Gods tryall, and it is not he that commends himselfe, but he whom God Commends, that will abyd his tryal and be ap∣proven.
But secondly, what then will doe it? may you say; we shall (as we promised) commend to you some rules to walk by, for attaining this end of dieing in Page 50 the Lord; and ye shall take them in several directions, but we will not now in the close of this discourse enter on the particulars, onlie take this word in the general; that all these who propose this end to themselves, would previously take along with them thir three ne∣cessarie antecedents; 1. That they have their peace made with God thrugh faith in Christ, and that they see well they be not living with a standing quar•…el be∣twixt God and them, for its by faith that we are unit∣ed to him, and without faith we cannot be in him, and so cannot possiblie die in him. 2. This would be taken alonge, not onlie to have faith in Christ, and our peace made with God thrugh him, but to know that we have it, to know in whom we have beleived; It is true this is not essential as the former, yet it is hardly possible to die comfortably and confidently without it, therefor Christians are exhorted, 2 Pet. 1. Give diligence to make your calling and election sure. 3. That they be exercised to keep a good conscience in all things, and alwayes towards God and towards men, Its impossible in ane ordinary way to die well except folkes endeavour seriously and singly to keep a good conscience along their life, and to squair the same according to the rule of the word, and walk suteablie to their profession; All these three are put togither by the Apostle Peter, 2 Pet. 1. v. 5. He wills them to whom he writes, to adde to their faith the exercises of the other graces of the Spirit, then, v. 10. he exhorts them to give diligence to make their call∣ing and election sure; and then by so doeing, he as∣sures that ane entrance shall be ministred to them to the everlasting Kingdome, which is as if he had said, by fastening your faith on Christ, by the exercise of grace, and by studieing to make your calling and elec∣tion sure by well doeing, a wide doore shall be made to you at death to enter into Heaven, and ye shall have the greater comfort and confidence to lay downe your Page 51 life; whereas on the contrarie when Christians doe much neglect the fastening and fixing of their faith, the exercise of grace, and the makeing of their calling and election sure, the entrie is strait and difficult, and others that altogither neglect these things, doe find the doore quitte shutt and no entrie at all: If there wer no more spoken but these three words, to be in Christ by faith, to live in him by the exercise of faith and other graces, keeping a good conscience towards God and men, and to make your calling and election sure, they might furnish you with work and dutie to take you up all your dayes; and they may also serve to con∣vince and reprove manie who vainely intertaine them∣selves with the hope and expectation of dieing in Christ, but doe not at all be-take themselves to this way of being, and living in him, even to goe with a blecked face & a stoped mouth to the throne of grace, and cordially close with Christs Offer, being content to adhere to him for righteousnesse, and utterly to re∣nounce their own, and then in a way of diligence in dutie, and by the fruits of a new nature and life, to evidence their union with him; this is the verie mar∣row and substance of what we would be at, and that which is the hinge of our salvation, even the right exercise of faith for righteousnes, the right exercise of grace for sanctification, and the right setting of ourselves ere death come, to have the grounds of our interest sure and clear; But such of you as have taken no paines to walk in this way, but still walk on, and continue in, your own old •…arnal way, ye cannot war∣rantably expect the benefites and comforts that flow from faith in Christ, and from walking in him, and these are, to die in him and to reigne with him; now God himselfe blesse this word and make it useful to you.
Revel. 14: 13.
IT is ane easie matter to speak and hear of the most spiritual and highly concerning truthes, in compa∣rison of what it is to make them practicable, and hence it cometh to passe, that so many speake and hear of them, and that so few practise them, and the neir∣er that truthes or duties come to presse upon us the mortification of our lusts, and to abstract us from the world, or to prepare us for dieing, we are the loather and the more reluctant to engadge in the practice of them, and to keep closse at it; Its a hard and difficult businesse to be both living and dieing at once; though everie man living may be said to be dieing daylie in so far as he is hastening to it: And therefor seeing what followes concernes your practice, and is the maine and most material use of this great doctrine, let one and other hearken diligently and give ear to what we are to say from God on this important subject, with a serious purpose and resolution to practise, for it will not otherwayes be of advantage to you, and ye would so prepare yourselves though grace to hear, as ye may firmely resolve to keep that which is of so great and everlasting concernment to you.
We 〈◊〉 last occasion at ane use of exhortation, com∣mending to you the right way of living so as when death comes, ye may have some well grounded hope of dieing in the Lord; And we proposed three things in prosecuting this use to be spoken of. 1. What we called dieing in him, and we shew it was to have solid Page 53 faith and cleirnesse of Interest in Christ, cheirfulnesse and comfort, quietnesse and satisfaction in dieing, a most desyreable and comfortable condition when we enter the lists with death, even to have this confidence that we are in him and shall die in him.
We come secondly, to some directions that are so many steps in the way to the attaining of this comfort∣able end of dieing in the Lord, we entred on them in General, and now are to prosecute them a litle further, thrugh the help of Gods grace; Before we could be particular in directions, we shew that these three things behoved to preceed; 1. There would be flieing to Christ by faith, and makeing peace with God thrugh him; 2. There would be endeavouring to make our calling and election sure by well doeing, for though our Justification before God depend not on our cleirnesse in this, yet much of our comfort and confidence depends on it, and it is no doubt our dutie to labour to make it sure. 3. There would be a holie walk whereby we may have a good conscience at Christs appearing, for there can never be boldnesse and confidence where there is a stinging conscience within, and challenges for sinning against light.
To proceed then more particularlie to these direc∣tions, how to live as ye may die well, wherein if we should be large and say all that might be said to this purpose, it would lead us to speake of all the duties of holinesse, and that with respect to all the conditions of our life, sicknesse and health, prosperitie and ad∣versitie &c; to our particular and general callings, and to all events; for as we carie in these, so we may expect to die, but these being general we shall passe them, and onlie propose some five or six directions in order to mens dieing in Christ, as the great scope of this doctrine.
The first direction is, seek to establish yourselves in the faith of these general truths that concerne your Page 54 dieing, especially to be established and confirmed in the faith of death, judgment and eternitie, wherein it will be either well or ill with you for evermore; And this is not only to have a general conviction of the truth of these, but by meditation to draw them downe to particular application to yourselves, that ye will die, that after death ye will come to Judgment and be eter∣nallie happie or miserable; for as we said before, one of the great evils that cherisheth Atheisme, is mens living as if they wer never to die; so then it is a fun∣dation of well doeing, solidlie to beleive death, judg∣ment, and eternitie, and they can never live well who lay not this for a ground, that they will die and come to Judgment, and who consider not what will readily be their challenges at death, that they may seek to answer them now, and what may be their tentations, that they may be guarded against them; Therefor ye would be established in the faith of these generals, and endeavour to draw death and judgment neir to you, you would persue them closse in your meditation; Sup∣pose that death wer this verie night approaching you, consider with yourselves if ye durst appear before Gods tribunal to be judged; more of this in our thoughts would help us, thrugh Gods blessing, to mor∣tifie lusts, and to give death litle to doe when it comes; But the truth is, the most part never think seriously on death, and because they desire not another life then the present, they shun to think of death; I commend the necessitie of this to you from the great aversenesse that your carnal hearts and humours have from the serious and stayed thoughts of it, I pose you that are given to pleasure, can ye indure to think on dieing? And you that are glutting and surffetting yourselves with the world, Dow ye abyd to think on that word, Thou fool this night thy soul shall be taken from thee, and whose shall these things be? And you that are prophane, dow ve think on that sad sound of the Page 55 trumpet, arise dead and come into Iudgment; that word of Iob is meet to be caried along with you, I know thou wilt bring me unto death, though the good man was mistaken in thinking he would die at that time, yet he knew he would die ere long, and be brought unto Iudgment after death, and caried along with him the thoughts of it: And if we would be in∣duced to try our prepareing for death by these thoughts, how few of us would be found to mind it, though it be of everlasting concernment? Ah! how few hours are taken to think upon it? if ye were to come before men or ane humane court with a cause that much concerned you in the world, how would ye think of it before hand, and think of it againe? and yet the most momentuous of these are but ve∣rie triffles, being compared with this great cause and case of conscience, how you shall die, and appear before the great God his Judgment seat.
The second direction is, that though all duties of holinesse be requisit, yet there are some particular du∣ties that ye would in a special manner make conscience of (without neglecting any other called▪for dutie) as having a special influence on preparation for dieing, and as comeing neirest (to say so) to death, though much slighted. As 1. the dutie of selfe-searching and examina∣tion, we would be verie impartial in selfe-examina∣tion and in comp•…ing with God; If men (as Solomon exhorts) should see to the state of their herds and of their flocks, much more should they see to the condi∣tion of their souls: Is it possible, think ye, to die confidentlie and comfortablie if ye be not acquainted with the state of your spiritual affaires, and endeavour not to have your accounts with God stated and adjust∣ed? If there be a plague on men it is the neglect of this; and if there be ane aw-band and restraint on their Spirits from unsuteable latituds and lousnesse, its the conscionable practice of this dutie; that which Page 56 makes death so terrible to many, is their living, some 30, some 40, some 50, some 60, years; without having ever endeavoured to fitt their accompts with God, let be to have them discharged. 2. The exercise of repen∣tance (which is alace•…a rare thing even among Christians in these dayes) is a special dutie to be gone about in order to our dieing in Christ, that when we see our∣selves wrong in anie thing (as manie wrongs may be easilie found in the forementioned search) we lett them not lye over, but be earnest with God till we get a discharge, and that cannot be gotten till repen∣tance be exercised; where this grace of repentance is, it hath faith alwayes with it, and it makes the heart tender, and removes challenges which make death terrible, it is also a great enemie to securitie, pre∣sumption, and pryd, and keeps the heart withall melting, and much in pouring out itselfe before God; the want whereof in these dayes Kythes in the cold∣nesse of our duties of avorship, and in the carnalnesse of our walk; however they that would die in the Lord, would studie to be found much in the exercise of this grace (we doe here indifferently designe these, duties or graces,) for if repentance be called for when the Kingdome of Heaven is neir, then sure it is called for, when death is neir, and there is nothing more requisit then a kindlie penitent heart as a spurr to chace to Jesus Christ, when we are to meet with him at death. 3. A third dutie, is the exercise of mortifica∣tion, it is a painfull but a profitable dutie, to be cruci∣fied to the world, to die to our lusts and carnal delights; by mortification we mean not onlie that which takes away the dominion of sin, and setts on to the studie of holinesse, but that which plucks up the roots and tapouns of sin, and slayes the motions of it, and as it were, weids it out of the heart, that which puts you to mortifie your distempers and passions of invye, anger, pryd, inordinat desyres &c. And to seek to Page 57 have your affections heavenlie, which notablie fits for dieing in the Lord. A 4. dutie that would be care∣fullie practised, is sobrietie, let your moderation, sayeth the Apostle, be known to all men, the Lord is at hand, mortification lookes much to things in them∣selves sinful and unlawful, I say much, though I will not say onlie, and sobrietie looks to things lawful in themselves, wherein insobrietie is the bain and plague of manie, who being so glued to the things of a world, and to these delyts and pleasures which are lawful in themselves, and whereof a moderat use is allowed, that they are entangled and fettered with them and made as unfitt for dieing, by their insobrietie in them, as by their doeing of some things that are in themselves sinful, O! how doeth inordinat love to children, friends, lands, houses, farmes, oxen, and to the married wife, unfitt them for dieing, therefor the Apostle exhorts Christians, 1 Pet. 1. To gird up the loins of their mind, to be sober 〈◊〉 hope to the end; for when men are unsober in the use of the creatures, they are like to these that have long garments which take the feet from them, as it wer, and impede them in their walking and at their work, when the affections hang loose and drag on the earth and the things that are in it, and the mind takes libertie to vaig and roave after these things, the man cannot be bussie at his main work, or make progresse in his Journey to Heaven; but sobrietie fitts him for his work and makes the way easie to him, makes him well content with his house or place and station and with whatever is his condition and lot in the world, it suffers not his affections to be entangled with them, it makes him so to use this world as not abuseing it; As the Apostle exhorts, 1 Cor. 7. to have a sort of sanctified denyednesse to a lawful use of the creature-comforts, that the heart be not glutted and surffetted with them, from which, our blessed Lord Jesus doeth most powerfully diswade, Luke 21. v. 34. Page 58 where he sayes, Take head least at anie time your hearts be overcharged with surffetting and drunkennesse and the cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares; where he plainlie insinuats (which is strange and little beleived and considered) that there is ane overcharge by cares about the things of this life lawful in them∣selves, as well indisposeing and unfitting for death and Judgment, as ane overcharge with surffetting & drunk∣ennesse is. This sobrietie prepares for dieing in the Lord, to which preparation on the contrarie, ane overcharge with worldlie cares is a mightie impedi∣ment, as these words of our Lord put beyond all de∣beat; especiallie when these two are trysted togither, a distempered mind with such worldlie cares within, & manie tentations and stumbling blocks from without.
A third direction is, they that would die in the Lord would carie the thoughts of death along with them, as if every day and moment wer their last, and as if they wer just now to appear before God, and as if they wer holily indifferent what hour or moment he would call upon them, for God hath sett (as to our knowledge of it) no time precisly to our living here; it is observed by some on Eccles. 3. that there is a time for everie thing, a time to be borne, a time to die, a time to laugh, and a time to weep, but there is none for living, for none can say I must or I shall live till to morrow, therefore he bids the porter watch, and would have all standing with their Armour on them in a watchfull posture, waiting for their Lords coming that he come not on them unawarse; nunc age quod moriturus agas, doe that now which thou would∣est be found doeing when death comes, hath been ane old and excellent saying.
It may be objected or queried here, is it possible that a beleiver can alwayes actually remember Christs coming and carie the thoughts of death along with him? Answ. It is in this dutie as in others, as when Page 59 it is said doe all to the Glorie of God, it is not so to be understood as if we could actuallie mind it all-alonge in everie thing we doe, our minds being but finit, and so unable actually to mind many things or different things in the same instant of time or at once, that is impossible, but as there is a habituall minding of the glorie of God, so there is a habituall minding of Christs appearance, which implyes these three things. 1. That when in cold blood (to say so) and at our∣selves, we resolve to wait for, and carie ourselves sutablie to the expectation of his appearing, and to doe nothing that we would shun or think shame of, or would not desire to be found doeing, if he wer ap∣pearing; which is in effect to be continuallie on our watch. 2. That when ever we take ourselves napp∣ing, we stirr up ourselves to ane actuall minding of it, and endeavour to squair the actions of our life accord∣ingly, asking our own hearts, if we durst doe this or that if he wer to appear, and accordingly to be sweyed with the aw of his appearing. 3. That in our ordi∣nary walk, we be often reviveing the thoughts of Christs appearing, putting ourselves often in mind of this rule, even to walk so as if he wer immediatly to appear; hence beleivers are often stiled in the Scripture, waiters for, and lovers of, his appear∣ing; and hence also the dutie of watching is so fre∣quently commended to them: so then we would not have this so universallie to be understood, as if beleiv∣ers wer to doe nothing more, nor if it wer spoken by a voice from heaven that they would presently die, or that Christ wer presently to appear, for then they would leave many actions undone, and leave off law∣full Journeys and Voiadges, and other actions they are called to, but the meaning is, that we endeavour to be found in, or at, nothing, we will think shame of when he appears, and in all things alwayes to keep a good conscience, a conscience void of offence tow∣ards God and towards man.
Page 60A fourth direction is this, these that would die in the Lord would be timeously acquainting themselves with the crosse of Christ and not seeking after a pam∣pered life, or to have the world at their will, but learning to fold, bow, and stoup to difficulties and straits; not that I would have anie procureing crosses to themselves, but as they would not procure them, so they would not peremptorly determine to eshew them when the Lord calls to take them on, and bear them; but 1. they would carie along a resolution to fold to crosses when they come. 2. When they come, they would neither with sinful anxietie, seek to shun them, nor would they lye downe discouradged under them, but denie themselves, take up their crosse pleasantlie, and cheerfullie, and follow Christ. 3. They that have personal freedome from crosses would kindlie sympathise with them that are under the crosse, Hence Solomon sayes, that it is better to be in the house of 〈◊〉 then in the house of feasting, Eccles. 7. v. 2. there is a greater good to be had there nor in the house where there is banquetting, revelling, and carrousing; The reason is, because few living in prosperitie are content and disposed to die, and adversitie doeth best loose folks grips from the world; O! it is hard to be glutting in the things of the world, and to live in a prosperous and plentiful condition, and not to be with∣drawn thereby from spiritual things; Therefor is the crosse and dieing to the world so much commended, for litle crosses are, as it wer, bitts of death or litle deaths and peices of the curse, as well as death itselfe is (though by the death of Christ they are turned into blessings to beleivers) and if we be habituat to these litle deaths, there will be a much easier yeilding to the great▪death, and lesse to doe when it comes.
A fifth direction is, that we studie to die dayly, and it is drawn from the Apostles words, 1 Cor. 15 31. I protest by your rejoyceing, which I have in Christ IesusPage 61our Lord, I die daily; which not onlie setts out his hazard daylie, but his seeking to prevent death, in dieing while he was living and ere death came, and it implyes, 1. a conviction caried along with him of the necessitie of dieing. 2. A looking on the continual hazard of dieing; 3. A preparation for, and continual readinesse to die; and 4. Ane activenesse in essaying to die, or ane acting of death, in a manner, before death come: We would follow the same way and be fre∣quentlie putting ourselves before Gods barr, and con∣sidering how we will answer deaths call, bowing our stubborne humour that it may not be found untractable at death, doeing that everie day that we would be found doeing when death comes, studieing to have all things in that order that we would desyre to have them in then, and habituating ourselves (as I said) to dieing; when going to our Prayers in the morning, to put ourselves in such a postour as if we wer no more to goe abroad in the world, and lyeing down at night, as if we wer not to rise againe in the morning, and when we speak or doe, to speak and doe like men that have not long time to live after our speaking or doeing.
The sixth and last direction shall be this, that ye would put in practice what your own conscience, your light according to the Scriptures, and the meanes ye have, hold out as necessarie for makeing and keep∣ing of your peace with God, and the keeping off of a quarrel betwixt him and you; This ordinarly is one of the main challenges that meets folkes at death, that they have suspended the practice of manie things they wer convinced of, that they have shifted, delayed, and putt off seasons and opportunities of called▪for duties, and have sitten down on this side of them; that they have not reformed such faults as they wer convinced of &c. it is commonly said of lawes, that we had need of one law to make other good lawes be put in execution, and so have we need of some one di∣rection Page 62 to help us to make other directions practicable, according to that word, Eccles. 9: 10. Whatsoever thy hand findeth to doe, doe it with all thy might, for there is no work, nor knowledge, nor wisedome, nor devyce in the grave whither thou goest; we are all posting on towards our grave, and there is no doeing of duties nor mending of faults there; therefore what ever the light of the word, and of our conscience well inform∣ed thereby, cleirs to be dutie we would be serious and diligent in the doeing of it, and in the doeing of it without delay: and if this one thing wer made con∣science of, it would doe more, thrugh Gods bless∣ing, then many: your consciences are convinced I suppose, that the former directions are verie helpfull, and that such as live thus will die the better, but alace! Many of you doe not so much as think on them let be practise them; it may be they shall not be in your thoughts till this day eight dayes, and when it is so to what purpose are all directions, for what use serve they? Are they not, think ye, uselesse unlesse they be put in practice? Therefor put not by this as a thing of litle concernment; death is the door to hea∣ven, and death is at the door; and living well is the way to dieing well, and as ye would live and die in the Lord, ye would lay weight on these directions, and fall about the practice of them in the strength of his own grace.
But before we proceed any further, though there may be a conviction that what hath been said is all true, yet there will be ane inward murmuring against it with many profain persons & readily two objection∣es will be started by such.
The first objection will probablie be this, if none die well but such as be-take themselves to such a way of living, who will or can die well? Such a life is impossible to us, therefore we will hold on in our own way and hope well; many when they hear such Page 63 doctrine are ready to think and say as they did, Iohn. 6. Who after they had murmured at Christs discourse, said vers. 41. This is a hard saying who can bear it? We shall by this means, will they say, be restrained in our libertie, we shall thus be putt to haunt alwayes the house of mourning, and never suffered once to laugh or smile (although that be not our meaning, to keep men from being mirry and cheirfull when called to be so, but to keep from being carnall, and to sett just bounds to them in their mirth); But for answer to these mens question, we would; 1. Ask them this Question, is this the truth of God, that such as would die in him must aime and endeavour to live as we have said? Is living well the way to dieing well, and dieing well the gate to Glorie? If so, will it then, think ye, be a satisfieing answer to God to tell him, that though this way of living is the way chalk∣ed out by thee for dieing well, yet we cannot close with it, we cannot walk in it, its so uneasie and so narrow a way? If it be Gods way will ye putt it off so? Or will ye carve out another way then God hes carved out to you? 2. Let me ask such, is not the gate strait and the way narrow that leads to heaven and eternall life? Will ye not therefor goe to heaven thrugh such a gate and way? And is not the way of living so as to die well and in the Lord the way to heaven, and must it not have difficultie in it? And yet thirdly let me say to such, that this way is but difficult and uneasie to corrupt nature, to a proud and carnally delicate heart that cannot indure in the least to be disquieted in the enjoyment of its sensuall pleasures and delyts, and to a sinfull selfish humour that will not stoup to God, yet to such as love to walk in this way, all the duties are possible and the difficulties superable thrugh grace, yea it is thorrow-out a most pleasant path and way, Philip. 4. vers. 13. Prov. 3. vers. 17.
They will secondly object, all yonder things the Page 64 man speaks of may be true, nay we cannot deny but they are true, yet we may be doeing and yet hope thrugh Gods mercie to win to heaven; have not many who have lived even as we doe died well and been saved? And such will readily have the thiefe on the crosse to cast up, which would in reason speak to them for their reclaiming, and from this they pro∣fainly conclude that they may hold on their own way, and yet hope to mend and grow better at length and so to gett mercie when they die; but for answer; 1. O! Thou gracelesse and profaine wretch is that the use thou makes of mercy, even to sin because God is mercifull, and to sin that grace may abound? Is that the end of Gods revealing his grace and mercie, to make him a minister of sin? How can ye look mercie in the face that so abuse mercie? And yet O! How ryfe is this among profain soules, to sin because God is mercifull, to abuse his grace and make him, as I said, a minister of sin? Consider of it, if ye will dar to look grace and mercie in the face that have thus stumbled and brocken your necks on them. Secondly though there be some that God hath given mercy to at their death, yet how many are they who have sinned presumptously and have gotten mercie? The theife on the crosse, it is true, gott mercie, but did he ever despise and abuse Gods grace and mercie as ye doe? It is one thing to sin out of infirmitie and humblie to pray for, and to expect mercie, and another thing to sitt warneings, and profainly to turne the grace of God into wantonnesse, and yet to have a presumptu∣ous hope of mercie. Thirdly how many are there in hell, and how few are there in heaven who have lived as ye doe? Gods Judgment hath come upon them and surprised them, so that they gott never leave to repent nor seek after Gods mercie, and they are now smarte∣ing for delaying to imbrace the offer of mercie, and for their despiseing of it, and cannot mend it? How Page 65 manie are like the rich glutton crying in the place of torment, who if they were permitted to speak to you would say, goe tell these our Brethren that they put not off time, and that they dallie not in their day with the offers of grace and mercie as we did, least they come into this place of torment with us. Fourthlie, Who ever gott mercie to whom their sin hath not been bitter to them? And will ye continue in that which hath been so bitter to others? If ever ye gett mercie ye must come to it, thorrow the way of repen∣tance, and by weeping-crosse, to say so, and it shall be more bitter to you soone or syne, then all the plea∣sure ye had in sin was sweet to you.
The third and last thing to be spoken to, is some few Considerations to presse the necessitie of takeing these directions, and of walking according to these rules, that ye may not be unfruitful hearers but doers of this truth; for it is practice▪ that is the life of Religion, and if anie thing ought to be practised, sure this is it, even to learne the right airt of dieing in the Lord; And therefor that ye may not decline it; Consider, 1. Whither or not the authoritie of God and of his Son Jesus Christ layes on this doctrine, if there be a com∣mand for it, that all that expect a dieing in Christ should live in him, and if to die in him be a dutie, then to make use of these meanes and directions that conduce to it, must lykewayes be a commanded dutie, and these must be the true and faithful sayings of God; it is a wonder that ye can have anie thing to say against them, for ye cannot denie them to be the truths of God, and yet as it is Psal. 50. ye (manie of you I mean) cast them behind your backs, ye will not it may be bow a knee to God in prayer when ye goe home, ye will not so much as ask yourselves what postour your soule is in for all that hath been or can be said; re∣member that ye will have God and not us to make ane accompt unto; and therefor anie of you that have Page 66 consciences and any the least measure of rendernesse in them, mind these duties, or know that ye shall, will ye nill ye, be the more unexcuseable; if we darr con∣fidentlie presse any truth upon you, Its this anent dieing in Christ, and holinesse as the way to it, as the summe and scope of all our preaching, which will onlie doe you good as it workes to this end; And therefore let us with all earnestnesse obtest you to think more seriouslie on your dieing in Christ, and in order to that, on your living in him and to him that ye may have boldnesse at his appearing, otherwayes we doe seriouslie and solemnlie protest unto you in the Name of God, that you shall never see his blessed face, nor enjoy his blessed followship.
The second consideration is taken from your own great advantage, and the mightie concernment that is in giving obedience to these directions, though there be a second death to them who make not readie for the first, yet there is but one death to all of you as to the final sentence, & upon this depends Heaven & Hell & the eternal condition of your immortal soules, whi∣ther they shall be under the curse of God drinking of the cupe of his Wrath for ever, or under his blessing drinking the cup of his love for ever, whither they shall be in the case of enemies, or in the case of friends, whither they shall enjoy Gods companie or have the companie of Devils; And think ye the•…e is no ods or difference betwixt these two, blessednesse and mise∣rie? and are ye not concerned which of these two shall befall you and be your lote for ever more, are ye beasts that have no immortal soules? or are ye Heathens that never heard of the right way to Heaven and happinesse, that ye should thus walk on in the broad way that leads to Hell and destruction, and turne your backs upon the narrow way because it is narrow, and so willfullie precipitat yourselves into the bottomlesse pitt, and into the deep gulfe of Gods curse and wrath for ever? Page 67 How litle soever ye may think of these things now, yet ye shall, if ye look not to it, to your eternal cost find the certaine and sad truth of them one day.
A third Consideration is drawn from the great work that there is about death, and when it comes to dieing, & when the immortal soul must be dislodged & leave the bodie, and will not possiblie be gott keeped any longer in it; ye never made such a voyadge, ye never had such a peece of work in hand as this will be found to be, when infirmities of the bodie grow on you a-pace, and at a great height, when the encum∣berance and fashrie (to say so) of the things of the world, when the affection of relations and friends, when eternitie stareing you in the face, when the De∣vil the great accuser, not onlie of the brethren but of all other men, with his libels waiting on, when the Law in its passing the sentence and curseing everie transgres∣sor, when Christs dreadful sentence, depart from me ye cursed &c. are all to be mett with and encountered at once; and when the conscience within will be cla∣mouring to you that ye wer not at all sollicitous and careful to eshew that sad sentence; and beside all these ye will yet have a greater partie to deal with then your conscience, even the great God the just and righteous Judge of all the earth, and O! but it be a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God, and when withal ye shall have a multitude of challenges and ten∣tations to enter the lists with, this will be found ano∣ther sort of thing then a Journey to London, or a voiadge to Holland, France or Spaine, or to the east or west Indies; and think ye who have put by and spent all your life in vanitie, that ane hour or two, or a litle time at death will be enough for prepareing you to encounter with it? O! sad and soul-ruining mistake, are there not manie poor wretched souls when death comes, who are forced to wish, Oh! if we had another lifetime to live, we would spend it better, and with such a wish Page 68 as that, poor souls, they slip away.
Consider fourthlie, the connexion that God hath established betwixt your dieing in the Lord and the following of these directions, betwixt holinesse and happinesse, now holinesse is not the speaking of some good words when ye come to die, otherwayes why should it be so much pressed in your life? the end of holinesse is Heaven and happinesse, and the end of the broad way of profanitie and formalitie, is Hell and destruction; It is true, as I have often said, that God may pluck some by a miracle of his grace out of the broad way at their death, but they are verie few with whom he deals so; the way to destruction is broad and easie, and manie walk in it; O! how is this roade beaten by multitudes of passengers, and usuallie as men live so they die, if they live wickedlie they die accursedlie and fall into perdition, hence is that pro∣verb, such a life such ane end; a man that is worldlie∣minded, or presumptuous and selfe-conceated in his life, ordinarlie dies so; And can ye promise to your∣selves a comfortable death if ye live profainlie or hypo∣criticallie? be not deceaved God will not be mocked, for if ye sow to the flesh alonge your life, ye shall most certainlie of the flesh reap corruption at your death; O! know therefore and beleive the absolute necessitie of living well, of living in, and to the Lord, if ye would die well and in the Lord.
Fifthlie, Consider and think seriouslie upon the great hazard ye are in of spiritual Judgments, if so be ye neglect holinesse and the following of these di∣rections in your life, be affrayed of blindning, hard∣ning, of delusion, of a reprobat mind &c, be affrayed that though ye should gett a long time before death, that yet ye may never gett grace to repent who thus de∣lay and put it off so long; if ye then would die well and prevent such plagues, live holily, or if ye care not to die miserably, goe on in your profanitie or in Page 69 your presumption notwithstanding of the hazard of being thus plagued, and of perishing at the last, on the fancied hope of mercie, for one of these wayes ye must live and die; but we say againe, consider what spiritual Judgments ye may fall under in your de∣laying, ye know not but a commission may come forth from God to his word and messengers, to make your heart fatt, your eyes blind, and your ears heavie &c. such a sad commission as the Prophet Isaiah get•…s in the sixth Chapter of his prophesie to many of his then-hearers; It may be a challenge hath been resisted, or a motion of the Spirit quenched at this verie time, and who knows but ye may never henceforth meet with another that shall doe you good? are there not manie Judgments of this kind rained on sinners dailie? are not manie preached blind, deaff, and hard, so that the plainest, clearest, and most home-pressed truths have no more influence on them then upon as manie stockes or stones? and whence is this I pray? Is it not from your not makeing use of the light holden forth to you from this Word of God, and from your resisting, stiffling, and smothering of challenges and motions of the Spirit ye have had? because of which God smites you with senselessnesse.
Sixtlie, Consider what possible advantage there is or can be in delaying this so necessarie a work, and what certaine prejudice there is in it, 1. There is no advantage, for the longer ye continue to delay ye are still the further behind, and the further out of the way, and the greater will be the difficultie to gett yourselves recovered, there will still be more guilt contracted, and moe challenges to deal with, and the greater la∣bour to gett your Spirits put into a good frame which ye have so much and so long distempered; yea, it will be a peice of a begun hell to you, when ye consider how ye have brought yourselves to such a woeful ne∣cessitie of hastering, mangleing, and spoyling all that Page 70 work and bussinesse that ye should have gone about so deliberatlie, orderlie, timeouslie, and carefullie in the time of your health; so that all your advantage will be but more sin, and that will bring on a greater heap of desperat sorrow and wrath. Secondlie, ye will not onlie have no advantage but ye will have much prejudice by it, for beside what hath been said, ye cannot comfortablie answer deaths call and sum∣monds to appear before the tribunal of the great Judge; How manie of you if ye wer to die just now and never to goe out of this Church alive, how manie are there, I say, of you that could not have peace and comfort at your death? If the walls of this house wer shaking, would not horrour take hold on you, as pangs of a woman in travel? It may be some that are beleivers in Christ would be somewhat disquieted and a litle sur∣prised, yet they would soone thrugh grace recollect themselves and be composed, but could the most part of you lay down your life with peace, calmenesse, and comfort if death should thus come upon you now or before to morrow? and you are not sure but it may, for you know not what may befal you ere ye goe home, nor when ye lye downe if ever ye shall rise againe; And is it possible that ye can have peace or comfort on solid grounds when death comes, if ye be not found haveing your peace made with God through Jesus Christ, and walking in the way of ho∣linesse? It will be put poor and cold comfort then, to think that you have made such ane advantagious bar∣gaine in the world, that you have such a land-estate or so much mony, such a commodious dwelling∣house, so fine orchards or gardings, or such a well furnished shope &c. that one word will marr all that comfort, fool this night they shall require thy soul, and whose then shall all these things be?
Seventhlie, Consider the particular crosses, infirmi∣ties, and afflictions ye are under and may be shortlie un∣der, Page 71 which may put you in mind of dieing, and in∣vite you to make for a change to the better; now ye are in health, within a litle ye may fall sick; now ye are in saftie, and by and by ye may be in hazard; doe not so many changes call on you aloud to make for ane unchangeable estate, and to endeavour to make sure that it may be a happie one?
And now when we have spoken both to directions, and considerations pressing and enforceing the practice of them, for ordering our life and walk with a due re∣gaird to dieing, and to dieing in the Lord; we are affrayed that it shall be but as water spilt on the ground, and but litle further the conviction and edification of manie of us, which God onlie can prevent; and therefore we shall shutt up all with a word to two sorts of you; The 1. is to you that are stricken deaff and dead with the spiritual Judgments of God, who no more regaird or mind your immortal soules then if ye had none at all, who live rather like beasts then like reasonable men and women, or like pagans rather then like Christians, what through carnal joveltie and mirth in some, what thrugh prophanitie & mocking of pietie in other some, what through idlenesse in a third sort, what thrugh the earthlie mindednesse & groveling in the world that is in a fourth sort, and what through securitie, formalitie, and hypocrisie that reignes in the greatest part; I assure you in the name of the Lord, that death is comeing and God will not be mocked, as ye sow so ye shall reap; think ye it sufficient prepa∣ration for death, or a suteable readinesse to die, to laugh and sport and play over your time, or to have your buildings goeing up, and your bargains goeing on? beguile not yourselves there is a reckoning quick∣lie coming which will be verie sad, and manie of you will find yourselves behind and at a losse in the maine businesse: doe not think, Sirs, that we speak thir words for the fashion, your case requires them all, and Page 72 therefore yet againe as ye would eshew the evil and miserie that followes the slighting of such a warning, doe not put it easilie and lightlie by you, for the Lords sake, for it is hugelie above all your greatest concernes in the world, to look for death and to provyde for it. The second word shall be to you that thorrow grace have begun to provide for it and are fallen slack, re∣misse and negligent, O! be alarmed and roused up to diligence; Alace! but few carefullie and consciona∣blie studie the airt of dieing well and in the Lord, and make in anie tollerable measure as they ought, for their appearing before Christs tribunal; look Chris∣tians to the tract of the best of your lives, and how unsuteable it is and how short of that it should be, there is (alace!) much carnalnesse, ruggednesse, and untendernesse amongst us, much formalitie and over∣linesse in duties of worship, much earthlie-mindednesse, much passion, much pryd and vanitie; It is a wonder that anie, who have the faith of their appearing be∣fore God, should dar to play such untender pranks (to say so) and to take such unsuteable latitudes to themselves beside the rule, and to have so groffe, so carnal, and so uncircumspect a walk as manie of us have; Studie more tendernesse Christians, for the Lords sake, otherwayes though you will gett your soules for a prey, and will arrive at last safe at that harbour of rest prepared for the people of God, yet ye may and will probablie have a verie unpleasant and uncomfortable voyage not without several tempests and stormes sometimes threatning utter shipwrak, and find a verie strait and difficult entring into the port; when death cometh to look you in the face, and when you begin to think of your being so near to ane appear∣ance before God, you may be in considerable fear; now the Lord himselfe▪ whose word this is, make it effectual for your edification and advantage through Jesus Christ.
Revel. 14: 13.
IT hath been ane old saying of many, that none can be called blessed before their death, though possi∣blie in the sense that some Heathens took it, it be not sound, yet we who are Christians may say, if death be not taken in, and if a man be not blessed at his death he is not blest at all, and though death after a verie short whiles aboad in the world putts men out of time, yet it hath a long traine of eternal consequen•…s follow∣ing it, appearance before God in Judgment, and everlasting well or ill being, are no trivial nor light matters; and yet as men close their eyes in time at death, so they may expect the miserie or comfort that Judgment and eternitie will bring along with them; and it is the great scope and designe of this Scripture to commend to you dieing well from the blessednesse that accompanies and followes it.
We wer in the forenoone pressing, as we could, the practice of some directions how to prepare for death, and shall now speak a litle to one question ere we proceed to make any further use of the doctrine, and it is this.
What shall they doe at death who have quite ne∣glected these directions, or not so minded them as they should have done, and who are brought in a sur∣prise of providence, ere they be awar, near the bor∣der and brink of eternitie, who have but few dayes or rather houres to live and cannot promise one to themselves? A verie concerning question, (and O! Page 74 That folk would studie to prevent it by minding the former directions in time) & withall a difficult questi∣on to answer solidly and cautiously; for indeed it is not easie to speak to dieing persons (what ever many may think of it) who when they are living will not hear; and therefore let none make a wrong use of what shall be said to the question, & this certainly is one wrong use of it, to delay time and to shift preparing for death till it come on you; but first, put this question seri∣ously to yourselves, how ye should live that ye may not have such a question to ask at your death, and that ye may eshew the anxietie that such a question hath with it at such a time; ye will very readily ask the question but heartleslie in sicknesse, who in your health putt it off carelesslie till death surprise you, and therefore be rather in holy dread of that time when it may be ye will scarcelie gett ane hour to think on the bussinesse, or it may be gett none to speak to you to give you clearnesse about it, or possiblie ye may not have libertie for paine and sicknesse to think on it, or to hear one speak to you anent it, which should in reason stirr you up by all suteable meanes to endeavour to be in a good, meet, and ready postour before that time come. But to speak a litle in answer to the question, we shall distinguish unpreparednesse for dieing in three sorts or kinds of it, or there may be three sorts of persons that may be suprised by death in ane unprepared condition, and to each of these we shall speak a word. 1. There is one sort which are ab∣solutlie and most sinfullie so, that never take anie paines at all to be prepared for death till it cometh upon them; we may speak to stones in the wall as well as to manie of you who are such. A second sort, is of these who have had some tendernesse, but they are fallen slacke, negligent, and out of a good frame. A third sort is of such as want feiling and comfort & are with∣out clearnesse of their interest, and fear to die in that condition.
Page 75As for the first sort, we say to you, it is no won∣der that ye slip away securelie, and fall into the pit of destruction that live senselesslie and stupidlie till death come upon you, ye that never think of death till ye and it meet, what can ye expect should be spoken to you for your comfort? alwayes we shall lay downe some grounds to be made use of, even in such a deplo∣rable and desperat-like condition, when folk have quite neglected preparation for death in their health, if such have but one hour to live, they would consider 1. That repentance is then possiblie attainable, they are within trysting termes with God as long as they are in the land of the living and the sentence not past. Secondlie, That there is then no peace to be had with God, but in the same way it is gotten now, that is by faith in Jesus Christ, which goes along with repen∣tance, and by folks betakeing themselves to a new way of living wer it but in a sincere resolution; Christ is the way the truth and the life, none can come to the father but by him, and without faith there is no union with him, and whoever look for eternal life, must have it thrugh faith in him. Thirdlie, That though a person wer to live but one hour, somewhat of these must be, some faith, some repentance, some endeavoured clearnesse of interest, some peace, some holinesse though it wer but in the bud, so as to speak but a few words to God, or to others standing by, as we may see in the theife on the crosse, grace wherever it comes wer it but of one houres age or standing, is grace and hath the same virtual substantial fruits, or fruits in the bud, as I said, that grace of older age and longer standing hath. Yet fourthlie, where short time is, there is need that there be some difference from what is ordinarie in the death of Christians of longer standing in the state of grace in pursueing of these things; 1. In respect of time, to goe the spee∣dilier through them, that is, to run (as it wer) the more Page 76 swiftlie and speedily thrugh repentance and selfe-exa∣mination, fleeing to Christ, and the fruits of holi∣nesse; If time be short these would be contracted, not that they would be slighted, but there would be endeavouring to put them some way togither, The Lord sayeth, Matth. 11. 12. The Kingdome of Heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force; there must be a sort of violence even in health in this matter but more at death, that is, if they gett not all doubts answered they would know there is ane absolute ne∣cessitie to be at Christ, which must putt them to step over these particular difficulties; as the preaching of the moral Law in Iohn's time forced people some way to step over the Ceremonies of the Law to Christ, so by Analogie, persons who have been negligent in their life must use the same violence at death, they must have sound repentance and faith, and by these betake themselves to Christ speedilie, and this speedinesse is, as I said, to be understood in respect of time; these things fitt and qualifie for him and would be made use of speedilie to unit to him. 2. A difference would be in respect of the mea∣sure, though repentance be in this case shorter, the humiliation would be deeper, though the challenges be shorter, the pangs would be so much the sorer, the person would be further downe in selfe-loathing and abhorring; regeneration and the new birth in such persons borne againe so verie late, will readilie be with greater paine and sharper pangs, with higher in∣dignation at sin and greater hatred at their own evil wayes, then if they had been sooner regenerated. 3. There would be a difference in respect of eager∣nesse and holie broudennesse, which would be beyond ordinarie; it is never good to delay repentance, faith, and holinesse, but yet folkes may come in to Heaven with a some-what flower pace (to say so) in health, then when they have putt off and delayed these till Page 77 sicknesse and death come on them, then they would be in a special manner alwayes restlesse till they be at a point, 4. Having thus exercised faith and repentance, they would die resolving to be the more in free graces commoun and debt, for if anie of all Adams posteritie be oblidged to God, and bound to be the verie humble slaves (if we may speak so) of most soveraignlie free grace, most certainlie these persons are most singular∣lie so, who have been rescued and snatched from death, hell, wrath, and the Devil when he was even readie and about to lay presentlie▪ his hands on them, and pull them to the pitt with him: And now I say againe, none that are in such a condition, nor anie of you all, have anie the least ground of encouradgment given from this doctrine, to putt off or delay faith, repentance, and the studie of holinesse, let none therefore take anie, least they be put to smart for their follie eternallie.
As for the second sort that have had more tender∣nesse, but are backslidden and fallen negligent and out of frame, they are to take the same way; when death putts them in a flaught, as it wer, and con∣science with challenges stairs them in the face, they would renew their repentance and faith in Christ, and the fruits of holinesse, the more speedily and eaggerly, they would be the more humbled, flee the more hastily to their citie of refuge, come with a more stopt mouth before God, and acknowledge grace to be the freer, and allow it to have the greater glorie.
As for the third sort, who have keeped up more tendernesse, and who would faine have their interest and peace clear, and to this day could never attaine to it, or if once they had it clear its grown somewhat dim and dark, and even in a manner worne away againe, they grow heartlesse when death comes and surprises them; to such I would say. 1. That beleiv∣ers may die without sensible comfort and die well, Page 78 for as sensible comfort is not essentially necessarie to folks justification, so neither to their dieing in Christ; folks may die sleeping, or in a distemper, or in a spirituall fear, and yet that fear have faith and love in the bosome of it; and that condition which marrs not Christians peace once made with God in their life, and is not so sinfull, may also be died in; they may be in the dark and yet die well. Secondly, distinguish and put a difference betwixt the sense of the joy of the Spirit, and that comfort and joy which a beleiver may have from Gods word of promise; beleivers both living and dieing may want the one and have the other; though they have not the flowings of the Spirit in sensible comfort and joy, yet they may have solid peace and consolation, because they have Gods word of promise to rest on, who have fled to him for their life, and their conscience hath ane in∣ward testimonie, that they have denied their own righteousnesse and betaken them to his, and in this they have peace; else how could a beleiver possiblie lye downe in anie measure of true quietnesse under de∣sertion, even for their tryal, it may be, more then for their sin? And if we look to David dieing though we will not peremptourlie determine, yet it is like he had not much comfort, for in these that are called his last words, 2 Sam. 23. 5. He betakes him to Gods Covenant, though he did not so feill the fruits of it, and rests there as at ane anchor; And therefore third∣lie, they that are in this condition would with the more confidence put themselves in over upon, and within the compasse of, the Covenant, and make their faith the sickerer because they want sensible comfort; and readilie it is and will be so with beleivers at that time, for then they are most out of conceit with their own righteousnesse, and in a holie fear and solicitude in themselves; for as he suffers some to be the more un∣tender in their life, and therefore makes them walk Page 79 without sensible comfort to keep down their van•… and pryde, so may he exercise some at death. Fourth∣lie, Let such so much the more trust God with their throwbearing, and resolve to be the more in his debt, and they never took shiping thus in deaths boat that had cause to fear to be drowned and cast away, He is the beleivers God and guide not onlie to death but even throw death; He may goe therefore through the valey of the shadow of death and fear none evil Ps. 23. We come now to add some further uses of the maine doctrine to these we made before.
And the first use is, seeing they are happie that di•… in the Lord, & miserable that die out of him whatever their externall condition be; 1. Lay the lesse weight on the comforts of this life, and 2. be the lesse feared for the afflictions of it O! Beleivers in Christ; There are, ye see, two parts of this use, 1. (To begin with the last) If happinesse be the portion of them that die in the Lord, what needs Beleivers, who have clear∣nesse of Interest and well grounded hope to die in the Lord, fear the afflictions or be much troubled with the ups and downs of a present life? Though they meet with contempt, reproach, povertie, disgrace, imprisonment, fineing, confineing, exile, manie challenges &c. These have ane end, death will put a period and close to them all; their great happinesse is not here, it is at the back of death; all your mise∣ries will be soone at ane end, and its a far more exceed∣ing and eternall weight of glorie that is laid up for you; your time here away will not be long, it will be but 30 or 40 years to some, 10 or 20 years to other∣some, some moe or fewer, and it may be but one year to some of you, and then our blessed Lord Jesus will come and wipe all tears from your eyes, and the comfortlesse rememberance of these tryalls, troubles, and tosseings shall never enter into heaven with you; its a shame that beleivers who have such a hope should Page 80 be so heartlesse when they meet with crosses, and walk so discouradgedly under them. Secondly, seeing happinesse followes after death, lay not much weight on the comforts of this life, what comfort or satis∣faction can ye have in them at death? And seeing they can yeeld you no solid satisfaction then, are ye not farr wide, and much mistaken that bestow your travell and paines in seeking satisfaction among crea∣ture-comforts, and never labour to enter into his rest; needs there any more be said to fright you from this foolish course but this, even to tell you that ye leave and forsake the fountaine of living waters, and betake yourselves to the cisternes that can hold no wa∣ter, and which will dreadfullie beguile and disapoint you; what will riches, pleasures, grandour, ho∣nours, and great places doe to you at death? these make but a poor happinesse and will soone have ane end, and yet there is no lesson in the world that men and women learne lesse then this; As all creatures say that wise∣dome is not in them, Job 28, So they all cry with one voice that happinesse is not in them; Its not in riches, for they take to themselves wings and flee away; Its not in honour, for man that is in honour and understandeth not, is like the beast that perisheth, and he that is high in court to day, may be hanged the morrow; neither is it in pleasures, for the laughter of the fool is madnesse, and hath greife and •…adnesse of heart with it and even in the midst of it.
A 2d Use is, and it hath other two branches, If happinesse follow them that die in the Lord; 1. It calls for a willingnesse as well as a readinesse to die when ever God calls you believers to it. 2. It serves to condemne a general unwillingnesse to die, and pos∣siblie somewhat of it, even among the people of God. 1. I say if happinesse be in dieing in Christ, then they that are in the way to it should be readie, willing, and chearful to die. And 2. It must be ane exceeding great Page 81 distemper when folks dow not hear of death with pa∣tience, and it argues stronglie that either folk are out of the way, or not thrugh and clear as to their being in the way; Therefor reflect on your condition; what if God should call any of you this night, are ye wil∣ling to die? I beleive there is not one amongst many that could heartilie say it, there is scarce one among many, but when death comes they would faine shift it, I speak not this to condemne the use of lawful meanes in sicknesse for recovering health, but to check our great loathnesse and unwillingnesse to die, which is such that we would alwayes suspend and putt it off; which speaks either; 1. Litle faith of this truth that they are happie who die in the Lord, otherwayes it could not be but if it wer solidly beleived, folk would be more willing to die and to be with Christ, yea, there would be a desyre to be there; if it wer testified to men by persons worthie of credit, that there wer a good, pleasant, and fertile land to be inhabited in such a place of the world, many would repair thither for makeing a good fortune (as ye use to call it) in this life, And yet for all Gods testimony (who cannot possiblie lie nor deceave) of the happinesse that fol∣lowes dieing in Christ, yet its not beleived, and there∣for few are willing or desyrous to goe through death to enjoy it, very few are like Paul, who desyred to be dissolved and be with Christ which was best of all, weaknesse of faith makes want of willingnesse to die. Or 2ly, it speaks out great want of love to Jesus Christ, unwillingnesse to die is no litle sin, but want of love is greater, when folkes preferre the being with Hus∣band, or Wife, or Children, or Freinds, to being with Christ; O! love to Christ strangely looseth the heart from these, and makes the soul breath after being with him, as that which is best of all; Or 3ly, It speaks much earthlie mindednesse, and addictednesse to the things of a present world, hence it is that many Page 82 carnal and earthlie minded wretches would never de∣syre a better life, nor another life then their house and bitt of land in quietnesse, the fellowship of their natu∣ral relations and other external enjoyments.
For clearing of this use further, let us in a word touch on a question or two, 1. If all willingnesse or desyre to die be good? 2ly, If a Christian may not sometime be warrantablie unwilling to die.
For the first of these, to witt, If all willingnesse or desyre to die be good? To cleir it we would distinguish and put a difference betwixt these two, a sinful and a commendable willingnesse.
First there is a sinful willingnesse or desyre to die in folkes carnal fitts, and it is threefold, 1. A desperat willingnesse; when folkes dow not abyde some pre∣sent horrour on their Spirits, or some paine of their bodies, or some other very heavie and sharpe crosse, they will wish to be away, and some in such fitts dis∣patch themselves by their own hands, so Iudas dought not indure the horrour of his own conscience, and therefore hanged himselfe; but this is rather ane un∣willingnesse to submitt to, and bear their present lot and case, then any willingnesse to die: the other two are incident to the Godly if not only to them; The 2d willingnesse then is, when the Godlie have many crosses that they dow not well bear, and are affrayed that God be dishonoured thrugh their fainting or other miscariages, or when they see it goeing ill with Gods People and his publick work, and they cannot doe any thing to mend it; they look upon themselves as uselesse and would faine be away, So Eljah 1 Kings 19. prayes, Lord take away my life, because they had slaine his Prophets, digged down his Altars and he only was left, as he apprehended, and they sought to take away his life; but the Lord tells him that he was wrong, that he had yet more to doe with him, and that mat∣ters wer not so ill as he trowed, for he had reserved Page 83 seven Thousand who had not bowed the knee to Baal; Thus some eminent godly men in ane evil time, will readily wish to be away, they dow not endure to be alwayes fighting, striving, and contending to help and heal, especially since they think they can doe no good: And yet sometimes it is not so much the case of the publick, as fear of being straitned or disappoint∣ed in some one or other particular of their own, that is the great ground of their fainting and wishing to be gone, as we may see clearly in eminently godlie and faithful Baruch, Jer. 45. The 3d willingnesse to die is, when a dispensation or affliction reflects •…ore on folkes credit, whither they be preachers or more privat Pro∣fessours; either some slip or miscariage in themselves, or some affront put on them by others, which makes them think they will doe no more good (though it may be such a thing hath come sinfullie from others), or it may be from want of successe in some work com∣mitted to them, or some disappointment mett with which they may desyre to have removed, as we see in Ionah Cap. 3. where he desires the Lord to take away his life, he conceaving himselfe as a Prophet to be discredited, and he is so headstrong that when the Lord asks him, does thou well to be angrie Ionah? He answers pettishly, I doe well to be angrie even unto the death; where God hints it to be his passion that precipitated him, and by the gourd lets him see that it was his particular that too much swayed him, & that he was not right in his desyre of death, or in his willingnesse to die.
For the 2d, The commendable willingnesse, I shall shew you what it is by four or five propperties that it hath. 1. Right willingnesse to die is content to die in prosperitie, and is submissive to live in adversi∣tie; when all things prosper with men, its a very rair thing to see them willing to die, though in fitts of crosse-dispensations, they may seem to be willing; Page 84 and to have a submissive mind contented to live in ad∣versitie, yea, in the midest of greatest troubles that are incumbent or imminent, is as rair: to be as Paul was, Philip. 1 23. content to abyd or goe as God thinks meet, is a sweet temper and frame of soul; to be wil∣ling to live shamed and reproached, and not to be dis∣contented with the down-lookings of honest folkes, and to goe through evil report as well as good report, in all things labouring to keep a good conscience, and in prosperitie, as I said, to be content to leave the world and all that is in it▪ when God calls by death, is a great matter. 2ly, right willingnesse hath this proppertie, that it flowes not so much from a desyre to be quyte of the troubles of the world, as to enjoy Christ and the good which the soul hopes for in and with him; it is not because either the persons own par∣ticular crosses grow, or because confusions, distrac∣tions, and contentions in the publick increasse, that they covet to be out of that life and to be gone, but because they long to be with Jesus Christ, Wee (sayeth the Apostle 2. Cor. 5. v. 4.) that are in this Tabernacle doe groan being burthened, and what is the ground? not that we would be uncloathed but cloathed upon; not so much to gett the infirmities of the bodie laid downe, as to have the glorie promised; it is that which swayes mainly in the right desyre of death or willingnesse to die. 3. Right willingnesse to die hath much desyre and endeavour after communion with Christ here, and if it cannot come soone eneugh (so to speake) to full, im∣mediat, and never to be interrupted communion with him in the next life, it seeks to make it up by pressing much after the neerest communion with him in this life; It is ane evil token when folk are desyreous to die and to be away, and yet are found neglecting com∣munion with Christ while they are living; these that are rightly willing to die will be much in desyre and longing after fellowship with Christ, and much in the delightful contemplation of Heaven ere it come and Page 85 in their practice tending thitherward, and very loath to doe any thing that may obstruct that so much de∣syred fellowship; This we may see in David, in the old Testament, and in Paul in the New, O! how doe they pray and pant after, and O! what paines are they at to keep communion with God? and how doe they labour alonge all their conversation so to behave, that no obstruction from them may be laid in the way of their so much longed▪for fellowship with him; let none then think that it can be a right willingnesse to die, that putts not men to be tender in the studie of holi∣nesse, and of conformitie to Christ in their life; There∣fore it is said of Simeon, who was so willing to die, that he was a just and devot man, waiting for the consola∣tion of Israel; and by him and other such godlie per∣sons in his time, was the Temple frequented night and day. 4ly, That is right willingnesse to die that is not by fitts, but continueing and distinct and goes upon solid grounds, I speak not of sensible comfort but of the grounds of faith, of some clearnesse of in∣terest, and of sweet submission to Gods blessed will; for though none needs to wonder much of Simeons willingnesse to die when he hath gotten Christ in his armes, yet it hath this sweet submission to God in it.
The 2d Question is, if even beleivers may be un∣willing to die? And if this be warrantable? I answer, They may be sometimes unwilling to die and that not unwarrantably; And for clearing of this we shall speak to two things. 1. To ane unwillingnesse to die upon carnal grounds; 2. To ane unwillingnesse to die upon good grounds; For the first, Beleivers may be unwilling to die from a sinful unpreparednesse to die, they may have a loathnesse to look death in the face throw the conscience of some, yea much carnalnesse in their life; beside that there is in all naturallie ane avers∣nesse from dieing, beleivers may have sometimes their own carnal designes that may make them unwilling, Page 86 but this is sinful; for where there is a good conscience sprinckled with Christs blood, solid faith, and clear∣nesse about our peace with God, in so far they will make willingnesse to die. But 2ly, There is ane ap∣proven unwillingnesse that some-times hath been in the Saints, as in David and Hezekiah, which is rather asweet submission to live, then a direct desire to live, for other reasons, for if it be a fear about the want of tem∣poral or spiritual things for soul or bodie, or about any thing that relates to Gods publick work, faith will answer these; but there are two reasons that the Saints have gone on, by which they have been induc∣ed to this, that made them approven in their unwil∣lingnesse to die. 1. The great stroak and influence that their removeal might have had on the work of God, as it was in Hezekiah, Iosia and Paul, their case; if the former two should have been removed, it would very probablie have overturned the Work of God, as Paul's removal would have made many sore hearts amongst Christians. 2ly, When their dieing in such a case, or under such a dispensation seems to cary some blot with it on innocent godlie persons, or on godli∣nesse and the profession of it; As if Iob should have died in his affliction, it would have confirmed his Freinds in their erronneous opinion or tenet; and Davids dieing in the hands of his enemies before he came to the crowne, would have left some blemish on the faithfulnesse of God, and on the profession of Re∣ligion, and been matter of shame and blushing to the godly; Therefore sayes he, For their sakes returne thou on high; And so that unwillingnesse to die that flowes not from respect to a mans selfe, but from respect to the publick work of God, to his glory and others good or either of them, is warrantable.
A 3d Use is, which hath also two branches, 1. Learne from this Doctrine to try and Judge what true blessednesse is, it is even to die in the Lord. 2. Learne Page 87 to cast at that as ane unhappie thing, which conduceth not to this end of dieing in the Lord. First I say, if ye would try your own hearts, when they are in a spi∣ritual frame, take this as a mark of it, if ye doe really account this to be bessednesse; if ye wer to hear a voice from Heaven, declareing who is the blessed man, and if ye had the Spirits Testimonie sealling it, here he is, blessed is he that dies in the Lord; Its not they that conquer, and overturne, and transferr King∣domes, that obtaine many victories, and have great successe in their atcheivments and undertakeings, that are blessed; Its not to be a Protectour, or sole Gover∣nour of Nations, that makes a man blessed, but this is it, to die in the Lord; this is the language of Heaven and that which is layed weight on there, and so should be by you. And 2ly, Lay all the things ye can Ima∣gine in this world in the ballance with this, they can∣not possibly weigh equally with it, let be down weigh it and what followes it; when they are all layed in the ballance with dieing in the Lord, and with the consequent glory and happinesse, they are light as a feather, yea lighter then vanity utterly unworthy to be named in a day with these; As there is therefore no happinesse in them so ceasse to seek it in or from them.
A 4th Use is, and its of other two branches, If there be a necessity of dieing and dieing in the Lord to them that would be happie; There is nothing so for∣cible to presse the studie of holinesse. 2. Nothing so forcible to scarr from prophanity, which are the great scope of all preaching: I say consider this doctrine rightly and it will be found, 1, To be most powerfully provocking to holinesse, the reason is, because dieing well, and living well are knitt togither, and nothing can more demonstrat the absolute necessity of holi∣nesse, without which none shall see the Lord; its as necessary as peace with God and Heaven, and who ever they be who think not so now, when ever they Page 88 shall be summoned to remove, they shall without all peradventure find it to be so. 2ly, Is there any thing more scarring at, and deterring from, profanity and a carnal walk? Gather all that the world can afford whi∣ther of sinful pleasures, or of lawful temporal delyts immoderatly often used, and suppose that ye could come by your very hearts desyre and wish in them, what will they all advantage you when death comes? to have so many thousands or hundred thousands of merks, to have so much land or so many houses, will doe you no good at death; what will it advantage you to spend your time in pleasure, in the lusts of the flesh, in tipling and drunkennesse? And ye that are swelled with prid and ambition, and would have all others backing you, and beckning and bowing to you, what, I say, will these profit you when death shall put ane end to them all, and make ane eternal divorce betwixt you and them, and when ye must lye downe amongst the dead, and when the wormes must be a covering to you? Its even a wonder (if ought of this kind could be a wonder to our carnal and profaine hearts) consi∣dering the necessity of dieing and of dieing in the Lord to all that would die well and happily, with the faith and conviction that we generally professe to have of them, that we think so litle seriously of death, and of such a death, and are at so litle pains in the study of holinesse to prepare for it.
I shall therefore in the last place speak a word or two to several sorts of persons, who should be thinking upon, and prepareing for death, but put it far away from them: 1. To them that are young and take a merry life of it, and dow abyde nothing but to be carnally Jovial, ah! poor wantouns, is not death fast approaching? Will it not be upon you ere ye be aware, and ere many years goe by? Certainly your life will not be eternall, and who knows but your time may be shorter then ye dreame of? The grave Page 89 may be as soone filled with you that are younger, healthfuller, and stronger, as with the more aged, sick, and infirme, what reason then have ye to be so mirry and jovial, when your peace is not made sure with God? Its a most remarkable and alarming word that is spoken to you by the Spirit of God, Eccles. 11. 9. Rejoice O young man in thy youth, and let thy heart chear thee in the dayes of thy youth, and walk in the wayes of thy heart, in the sight of thine eyes; but know that for all these things God will bring thee into Iudgment: Ye may goe on, if you will at your perril, slighting all warneings and admonitions, but be assured Death and Judgment are quickly coming when ye will be called to reckon with God, not only for every open, but for every secret thing good or evil; Therefore be exhorted to review and to cast your eye along your youth, and to consider seriously how it hath been spent, and see if there be not reason for your takeing the exhortation that followes, Remember now thy creator in the dayes of thy youth &c. Eccles. 12. 1. and to spend some more time in thinking of, and prepareing for death; 2ly, To them that are exceeding wise in their own genera∣tion, very provident for Summer and Winter, and for all seasons of the Year, and who can manage their estates very well and put all things in good order for themselves and for their children, to make them a convenient life in the world, but doe not at all in good earnest mind ane other life, how many such are there, that are very wise for this life, but for the matters of God and their own soules are starke fools the veriest fools in the world? Many like Martha (who though a good woman was neverthelesse much prevailed over by this distemper, albeit it did not reigne in her nor obtaine dominion over her, as it doeth over unregene∣rat persons) are careful, cumbred, and troubled about many things, and neglect the one thing that is needful; Is it not a wonder that such very rational and Page 90 wise men should wast all their precious time, except what they spend in eating, drinking and sleeping, upon the things of a present life, and not allow so much as one hour of all the week to think seriously on their soules and of death? I appeal to your own consciences if this be reasonable and a practice worthie of rational men having immortal soules capable of eternal happi∣nesse and miserie? And if your time be not spent on these things which are but vanity, and which at death will doe you no good nor profite you, and concerning which you will then be made to cry, What profite have we of these things whereof we are now ashamed? 3ly, To such as are frequent in their attendance on publick or∣dinances, and in the use of other commanded meanes, and yet never thought nor beleived their soules to be in hazard, nor in good earnest prepared themselves for dieing; O! think yet upon your hazard, for that is the first spring of makeing readie for the remedie, O! seek grace to examine yourselves, to beleive in Christ, to repent, and to live as it becomes them that professe themselves to be dieing persons; Its really both strange and wonderful how it comes to passe that ye can so often hear and yet give no obedience to what ye hear, doe ye or can ye think that it is religion enough to hear? Hath not the Scripture said, James 1. That it is not the hearer, but the doer of the word that is blessed in his deed or doeing? I beseech you therefore be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only deceaving your own soules, or (as the word is) deludeing and playing the Sophist with your own soules. 4ly, To them that have greater parts and abilities, and higher places and power then others, and have withal moe opportunities to be prepareing for death; who are masters of families and can command their children and servants to read the Scripture, to fast and pray, and seek God; and who know from the word what is right and what is wrong, what is duty and what is sin▪ Page 91 and yet are so very litle in the practice of these direc∣tions in order to their preparation for death; Consi∣der I intreat you what your knowledge, parts, places, and power, will doe to you or advantage you when ye are dieing, if there be not faith and love, and the fruits of both in practice; Its really a wonder that so many men should have light in, and conviction of, these things, and yet should so dallie with their light and conviction and not endeavour to make them prac∣ticable. 5ly, To them that are aged and have their one foot as it wer in the grave, who are neir fifty or sixty, or a very few moe years which not many ex∣ceeds, and yet are, even when so far on in years, as secure and negligent in preparing for death as if it wer ane hundreth years from them; consider what ye are doeing, age (alace) and years doe not necessarly bring along with them more tendernesse in soul-con∣cernes, for we see it in experience often-times, that the more aged men are, the more stocked are they in ignorance and senselessness; certainly if this word speak to any, it speaks to you that should in a manner cary your deaths-cloaths about with you, and be exam∣plary to others in prepareing for death; ye would therefore take it to you. A 6th and the last sort we shall speak to, are these that are in a poor mean and low condition in the world, for all are not rich and wealthy nor have a plentiful outward condition, ma∣ny can scarcely gett their families maintained, and yet even but few of such (which is a wonder) are se∣riously seeking after Heaven, and prepareing for dieing in the Lord that leads to it; the rich have a tentation that ye want; If any in the world should seek after Heaven it should be you who are poor, and yet how many of you will be miserable, not only here but also eternally hereafter ere ye betake your∣selves to the way of holinesse? If ye wer wise, as ye ought to be, ye would blesse God that ever this Gos∣pel Page 92 came among you and was preached to the poor, which hath happinesse and everlasting riches in the bo∣some of it to all that will embrace it: O! take this word to you poor and rich, ye will all most certainly lye downe in the grave, but this will make the diffe∣rence, ye will die happie or accursed, as ye die in Christ or out of him. Finally, I must say this word to them that have some acquaintance with God, and some conviction of the fecklessnesse and great defi∣cience of their endeavours in prepareing for death, for their both humbleing and further upstirring to di∣ligence, that there is amongst us both litle rouseing of ourselves, litle hastening to the comeing of the day of God, litle goeing out to meet' the bridegroome; Alace! We will, to speak so, take both a putt and a call to make us advance towards death, though we be drawing neirer to it dayly, yet few of us, as I just now said, are waiting for, and hastening unto the comeing of Christ and of the day of God.
I shall close up all with this one word, it may be that many of us shall teast of death before we hear so much spoken of it; take it therefor as ane advertise∣ment and call from Heaven to mind more that which is so much forgotten, and yet so necessary to be al∣wayes remembred, even to live so as we may die in the Lord Christ, and so be eternally and unspeakably blessed.
Revel. 14: 13.
ALthough we have already spoken at greater length on these words then at first we intended, yet somewhat remaines that is useful, and which seemes to be their maine scope; therefore we shall insist a litle further. The way that we gather what we are to say is by considering the Spirits purpose and designe in this place, which comes in very remark∣ably, haveing no particular dependance (as would seem) on the former words, nor connexion with what followes; what can be the reasone that be∣twixt the denunciation of Judgment before, and the Prophecies of Judgment that follow, there is such ane interruption & breaking off from the series of the Historie made? I heard a voice saying to me, write, blessed are the dead which die in the Lord, from hence∣forth, yea saith the Spirit &c. there must sure be some reason; We shall offer these two reasons that point especially at the scope of the Spirit of God and are insi∣nuated in the words, that will be the grounds of two doctrines; The 〈◊〉 reason is, That the Lord when he is speaking of sad things to come upon his Church, and and of Judgments to come upon the enemies thereof, casts in this as a ground of profitable meditation to his people at such a time, so that whither we looke to Judgments to come on enemies, or to tryals and tenta∣tions his own people are to meet with, this is cast in sea∣sonably as a practical lessone plaine in itselfe, & profita∣ble to them. A 2d reason is, that God by such a word, Page 94 when death should be frequent & trouble & confusion should grow, may comfort and encourage his people, that death may not be bitter nor terrible to them since the Lord putts this motto, to say so, on mens dieing in him in the darkest and sadest times, that they are blessed.
These two being the scope, the one to prepare them for dieing, and the other to comfort them against dieing, they yeeld us these two useful points of doc∣trine, the first whereof we shall speak to at this time, which is this.
Doct. 1, That death and the happinesse of them that die in the Lord, is a suteable and profitable subject of the meditation of Gods people, especially in times of difficulty and trouble; This we conceive is clearly implyed in the words, certainly the Spirit that is so wise, and who most opportunely timeth and trysteth things for the good of his people, would not so abruptly have brocken in on this purpose at this time, if it wer not very pertinent and suteable to such a time; there is not in all this book such a remarkable diversion from the series of the History, having such a word prefixed to it, and such a word affixed and subjoyned to it as this; no doubt to stirr up Gods people that have this book to read, when they come to this memorable passage, to think and consider of it the m•…re seriously: To clear the doctrine more generally a litle, we will find that these who have been most holy, have been most frequent in the thoughts and meditation of death, so David prayes, Psal. 39. Lord make me to know mine end, and the number of my dayes, that I may know how frail I am; and Moses, So teach us to number our dayes, that we may apply our hearts to wisedome, Ps. 90. (the numbering of our dayes, is this, serious thinking and meditating on approaching death) We may here also look on the example of our blessed Lord Jesus Christ, Luke. 9. 31. who speakes at his transfigura∣tion Page 95 on the mount with Moses and Elias of his deceasse▪ which he was to accomplish at Ierusalem; for though there was something peculiar in his death, yet his speaking of it, and prepareing for it, belongeth as a common dutie to us, and should be a paterne to us; And O! how doeth Solomon commend the meditating on death, Eccles. 7: v. 2. and 11: 8, 9. and Chap. 12. throughout.
But for further and more particular clearing of this doctrine, we shall speak a litle to these three con∣tained in it; 1. What is meant, when we say that death is a suteable subject of meditation? 2. What profite or advantage comes to the people of God by it? 3. Why doe we say it is especially profitable and advantagious to be thought upon in ane evil time?
For the first, when we speak of death as a suteable subject of meditation, It is not to be strictly taken as contradistinguished from other things that preceed, accompany, and follow death; But 1. we take in the thoughts of the certaintie of dieing, and the un∣certainty of its time and other circumstances as to us; Its then to think on death as the way of all flesh, as that which no man can gett a discharge from, and of the uncertainty of the time and manner of it, how sudden and surpri•…ing it may be. 2ly, When we speak of the meditation of death, we take in all that ac∣companies it, the paine and outward deseases where∣by men are made unable to doe any profitable work in their generation, as also all the challenges, convic∣tions, tentations, terrours, and anxieties that ac∣companie death, and the estimation of things that we see dieing men to have; All these would be taken in as a part of this meditation. 3ly, When we speak of meditating on death, we mean not that it would be meditated on, only as it is a natural thing after the fall of man, but would consider and distinguish it in its several kinds as its dieing in sin and dieing in the Page 96 Lord, the first and second death; we would look upon death on the one side, as ane effect of the curse, and on the other side, as sweetned with Gods love and as ane entry into happinesse: And we would add to this the causes of the one and of the other, what it is that makes death miserable to one, and happy or the entrie to happinesse to another. 4ly, When we speak of thinking on death we would take in the effects and consequents of death, our appearing before God, Judgment, and Eternity, that are at the back of death; The entring into an unchangeable estate of well or ill being, meeting with a sentence that is irrevocable, the eternal happinesse of them that die in Christ, the eternal miserie of them that die in sin, perfection of Joy, and extremity of sorrow for ever, which men and Angels are not able to conceave and farlesse to ex∣presse; And when we speak of meditation on death, we say its a suteable subject to be thinking often and frequently on all thir, not only at more solemne and sett times, but even in the midst of our callings and employments, in the midst of our Joy, and of our greife and sadnesse, to be takeing some serious lookes of this day that will put ane end to all these in the way before spoken of; in your youth 〈◊〉 be considering that this day of darknesse is comei•…g, and in old age especially, when the shaddow of death sitts downe on the eye lids and the strong men begin to bow them∣selves &c.
As to the second, To commend this duty to you all consider what advantage flowes from it, though we spoke of meditation in general at another occasion, and hinted some what at meditation on death, yet it being so frequently spoken of in Scripture and so profitable to beleivers, we shall speak a litle to some advantages that will commend the expedience of the duty, as well as the necessity of it to you; And 1, Much of the improvement of the great truths we have been Page 97 speaking of to you these dayes past, depends on your meditation on death, and these things that goe before, accompanie, and follow after it; its impossible to know a right, and to beleive how great a task and work it is to die well, and what is the happinesse of them that die so, if we be not takeing paines to be cleared and confirmed in it by Scripture and by medi∣tating on it; folkes take but a glance at it in the by, but stay not to look on the quarrel and controversie that is betwixt God and them, neither doe they con∣sider seriously what is at the back of death, and there∣fore it surpriseth them when it comes; whereas that man can speak of death boldly and advisedly that hath been acquainting himselfe with it before hand. 2ly, There is nothing that readily doeth more heighten the estimation of God and of Christ then the thoughts of death, the thoughts of it brings folks closser and neerer to his barr, and make them look on him as Judge, they put them to consider their fecklenesse, basenesse, and vilenesse upon the one hand, and the greatnesse of the Majesty of God upon the other; O! how sublimely doe David and Iob speak of God? when in the one word they talke of the grave, and of the cover of wormes there, and in the other word, highly ex∣alt the Majesty and greatnesse of God; Meditation on death brings the thoughts of what God is, and of what we are, very neer us, and represents to us be∣fore hand what he will be found to be at and after death, and what we will be then; whereas on▪ the contrary, it is given as a root of our despising God, when men put the evil day far away, as no doubt a root of reverence and respect to God, is serious me∣ditation on death. 3ly, More particularly, look to beleivers converseing with others that have grace, or that abound in corruption, we will find it exceeding needful, useful, and advantagious to carie along the thoughts of death; It would make Christians walk Page 98 loveingly and edifieingly with others, loather to doe wrong, more patient when they suffered wrongs, and more easie to forgive, and more ready to forget wrongs; our carnal humours would not gett such way, if the thoughts of dieing wer suteably intertained; and halfe an houres discourse togither with the impres∣sion of it on us, thrugh Gods blessing, would edifie and profite us mutually, more then many dayes meet∣ing without it could doe. 4ly, In reference to a mans selfe: 1. More generally, meditation on death is a most quieting and Spirit-sobering thing, it stayes the mind, it diverts from vanities, and removes them from being the object of his persute, nay it someway crucifies him to them; And hence it is that men are seldome or never in a more sob•…r and in a better frame, then when they are seriously apprehensive of death, as suppose men to be in sicknesse, or in danger at Sea or on Land, they will readily be in another frame then ordinarly they use to be in, and when the danger or strait is by, that impression weares readily much away; but wer we more in meditation of death, this frame might be more constant and lasting. 2ly, More par∣ticularly 1. It contributs, thrugh Gods blessing, to rectifie a mans Judgment that by orriginal sin is dark∣ened, and accounteth ill good and good ill, the thoughts of death make a man wise, discreet, and condescending; men while they are in health and without these thoughts, will not quite ane inch of their will, they will rather wound their conscience then their credit; and to get their barnes full and all goeing well with them in the world, wholly takes them up, but the serious thoughts of death makes them wise to discerne and judge of things, therefore Moses joines these two togither, thinking on death and the applying of the heart to wisedome, Psal. 90. when folkes think not on death, they are cumbered with many things, they r•…ne to cisternes and turne their back on the foun∣taine; Page 99 whereas serious pondering on death, lets the va∣nity and emptinesse of these things be seen; how many see we dayly when dieing, counting litle of these things they thought much of before, and calling & accounting themselves fools that suffered themselves to be so ca∣ried away with them; and however Gods Spirit calls them fooles that make such a choise. 2ly, As it inlight∣eneth the Judgment, so it ordereth the affectiones and rules the passions, therefore when Solomon is speaking to the young man who will be tyed with no bands, he Ironically bids him rejoice and laugh on, but withall wills him to remember that for all these things he will come to Judgment, the meditation of Death and Judgment would say of laughter thou art mad, and of mirth what doest thou? It would make men look on them as vanity, folly, and madnesse; & these thoughts especially would become folkes in prosperity, and in their youth when their humours are more high bended and light; meditation on death is a notable bridle to lightnesse. 3ly, If we will yet look more particularly forward, Its exceeding profitable to advance morti∣fication, to bring us out of the entanglements of a world, and to help us with singlenesse and denyednesse in following Christ, thou fool, (sayes death) this night thy soul may be taken from thee, and whose shall all these things be? It makes mens carrouseing and good fellowship (as they call it) teastlesse; con∣science would in that case speak and say, what if thou die drunken or with the cup in thy hand? this medita∣tion makes a man care litle for the world, riches, pleasures, and honour; it would make all to grow very unsavoury, in a word, it mortifies these three which are the worlds trinity, pride, covetousnesse, carnal lusts. 1. It mortifies pryd, as we may see in David, who sayes, Psal. 39. Lord teach me to know my end and the measure of my dayes, that I may know how fraill I am. And in Iob, who sayes to corruption, it is hisPage 100mother, and to the wormes, they are his Sisters; It puts to say, dust I am and into dust I shall returne. 2. It mortifies covetousnesse, for the meditation of death wrings the heart from the things of the world, and gives the man other thoughts to think upon; how many when death approaches are forced to say, they have cumbered themselves with the world and it hes beguiled them. 3. It mortifies carnal pleasures, for what can vaine fleshly lusts doe to men that are dieing? For as merrie as they are now, say these thoughts, they must appear within a litle before God in Judg∣ment, and if this be not a bridle to these lusts, I know not what will be a bridle. 4. It stirrs up to the diligent exercise of all duties, and to the goeing about them soberly and seriously, one preaching or prayer after serious meditation on death would have more weight, and be waited with more advantage, then many others without it; It puts to humiliation, selfe∣examination, selfe-searching; it furthers the exercise of the fear of God, and brings the soul to stand in aw of him before whom it is to appear shortly: It furthers repentance and prayer, Job 41: 25. Because of breakings they purifie themselves; they make them∣selves for death by repentance, prayer, and the of∣fering of sacrifices even these Heathens in the Ship with Ionah; And if meditation on death put profaine men to the forme of Religion, how much more will it put beleivers to be serious and spiritual, in the exer∣cise of these duties and in the practice of Religion? And if God give them time and seriousnesse at dieing, their prayers will be more feckful and fervent at that time then before. 5. It is exceeding profitable to work kindly submission to crosse-dispensations, and to make folkes goe softly under them; what will a man care, (carkeingly I mean) that is taken up with me∣ditating on death, for the fore faulture of his estate or to have his house brunt, or his land wasted? He knows Page 101 death will put ane end to all these things. 6. As it fitts for all duties and restraines from all vices, so it ex∣ceedingly prepares for death itselfe which is the great scope; Solomon describes sicknesse and old age, Eccl. 12. to make the young man readie for death ere it come, and if there wer no other advantage by meditation on death, this is no small one, not to be surprised with it: Yea, it some way also mitigats the bitternesse of death, so that its not so terrible to them that have been thinking on it seriously, as it is to others who have never made it the subject of their meditation? And what wonder is it to see many either mightily terri∣fied or very stupid at death, since they never studied the lesson of dieing before it came on them?
But as to the 3d, Why adde we this, that it is espe∣cially advantagious in evil times? Which seems to be the very scope of the words, and the godly such as David and others have thought it so; we doe not say that meditation on death is especially profita∣ble and advantagious in ill times, as if it wer not to be thought on in times of prosperity and peace, but that it is exceeding necessary, and singularly profita∣ble in ane evil time, and in such ane one as we now live in; And the great necessity and advantage of this ariseth from three things that accompanie ane evil time; 1. Many snairs and tentations; in ane ill time flesh and blood is ready to postpone a good conscience and to preferre selfe preservation; now living in the meditation of death guards against that; if the tenta∣tion say, man spare or save thyselse, the soul that is thinking on death will say, I may soone losse my good conscience by yeilding to such a thing for preser∣vation of selfe, and yet it may be myselfe shall not live a year after it, and though I should live twentie yet shall I be brought to com•…t for it, And therefor I will rather hazard on the losse of any thing, yea of life itselfe, then by wounding or ship-wracking my Page 102 conscience on provocking God; Hence the Apostle tells us, 2 Cor. 5. that he was not swayed with out∣ward things. 2. Another evil accompanies ane evil time, and its carnal sorrow, fainting, perplexity, discouradgment; meditation on death mitigats these, It sayes that these things, or any other thing the Godly can suffer, are not eternal, It sweetneth our greife, it diverts the mind from carnal thoughts to that which is more profitable, it easeth the mind, and layeth the •…lormes, and calmeth the confusions, that outward difficulties and troubles raise and awake in it, and gives a profitable use of sad things. 3ly, There is in ane evil time ordinarly, much confusion and distraction; that is downe which we think should be up, and that is up which we think should be downe, and our mindes are ready to stagger and reill to and fro like a drunken man, because of these confusions; but the thoughts of death stay the mind, and say, that death er long will bring all these things to ane end or else ane end to us, and will bring them all to be recognosced and judged over againe; To this purpose compare, v. 16, and 17. of Eccles. 3. where Solomon sayes, I saw the place of Iudgment that wickednesse was there, and the place of righteousnesse that iniquitie was there; And what does comfort him against this? I said in my heart, God will Iudge the righteous and the wicked, for there is a time there for every purpose and for every work; oftentimes there is not a seasone for things here, but at death there is a season for every thing, all sentences that have been wrongously past here will be reduced there, the con∣sideration of this stayes his heart and comforts him.
The Uses are two, The 1st is by way of exhortation, to commend this excellent though much slighted duty, not only meditation in the general, but medita∣tion in particular on this subject of death; folkes have often as litle mind of this duty as if it wer not in the word of God, and yet it is frequently called for there, Page 103 and if in any generation, then in this, wherein there is so much confusion, turneing of things up syde downe, and reilling to and fro; so many snairs and so many grounds of greife and sorrow; when so many are carnally weighted and dejected, and so many are declineing and goeing wrong: And (as we shew be∣fore) we think that this text relats to this time of the World, the time of Gods beginning to execute his Judgments on Antichrist before the full harvest and vintage come; and therefor we would speak to this use a litle more particularly, because its very usefull and a notable mean to make you goe profitably about the practice of all that we have spoken to this purpose; for it puts us in mind of these directions for right living in order to dieing, and it holds us at them; without the minding of death, there can be no minding of them, for these that mind not the end can never mind the midses; because, I say, its thus useful, We shall therefore for further clearing of it speak a litle to two things; 1. To some directions or rules, shewing how ye should think on death. 2. To some helps and means thereto.
For the first, ye remember when we said death was a suteable subject of meditation, we took in death in its circumstances, concomitants, and kinds; And our first direction or rule shall be this, be particular in your meditation, let it not be abstracted from yourselfe in particular, Its not enough to take it for granted that death is common to all; So does Iob, cap. 30. 23. I I know that thou shalt bring me to death, and so does David, Ps. 39. Lord teach me to know mine end and the number of my dayes, how frail I am; goe thrugh all the concomitants of death, and consider what may be your case at death, what will be your challenges, tentations, and thoughts; and what will be the effects and consequents of death to you, when ye must with these same eyes and none other for you behold and face Page 104 your Judge. 2ly, Cast a reflexe look on yourselves and your own way in meditation, when ye look to that way that prepares one to die well, look back and see if such a preparation be in you, consider how your way sutes with that which the Scripture holds out to be the way, if such a challenge may meet you at death, and what course is taken with it to answer or prevent it; this was Iobs way Chap. 31. where he tells us that he durst not slight the cause of his man-ser∣vant or maid-servant when they contended with him, for then he should not have had a good answer to his judge, & that if he had done otherwayes, it would have marred his boldnesse. 3ly, Labour to have your af∣fections moved in your meditation on death; This is a cheife end of meditation; otherwayes we will but run to and fro, and roave up and downe to informe the Judgment, and cary the thoughts of death as a common place along with us, but will gett no more good of it; the special thing is to have somewhat dropeing from it that may melt the heart, as it was with David, Psal. 77. I thought on God and was troubl∣ed; and Psal. 63. My soul shall be filled as with marrow and fattnesse; there is something like this in meditating on death, it affects the heart with terrour, when the soul thinks on dieing without clearnesse of interest; It affects the heart with comfort and joy, when the soul is clear in its interest; to think on dieing in Christ so as thereby to be advanced a step nearer unto it, and to drink in what we have been thinking upon, that is the truly profitable thinking on such a thing; the medita∣tion that is without affecting of the heart, is like the chewing of meat that is presently spitt out againe and not swallowed down and digested; or to the looking only on what is profitable without makeing any further use of it: Such, I say, is all our preaching, hearing, speaking, and thinking of death, when they doe not affect the heart. 4ly, Study to be practical in your Page 105 meditation, that is, to have it tending to some profi∣table use in your practice as its end; when ye have found out such a thing to be wrong, presently to sett about the amending of it; when ye have found out some thing spiritually profitable, resolutly to goe about it and all the meanes to attaine it. 5ly and lastly, Seek to be much in prayer to God, and in dependance on him for direction in this particular, goe about me∣ditation on death as a duty commanded by God, with prayer to him and with dependance on him for his assis∣tance and his blessing on it, many look not on the me∣ditation of death in particular as a peculiar duty, and therefor its so much slighted: When we commend it to you as a duty, we mean these three things; 1. That ye should look upon it as required of God, and as being useful and profitable as well as any other duty: 2ly, That ye should goe about it as in his presence, ordinarly folk take a greater latitude in meditation then in prayer, but ye would remember and consider that he is witnesse to your meditation as well as to your prayers, that he is the great subject of it, that it is laid on by his command, that su•…eable meditation is and must be wrought by his Spirit, and that ye will and must count to him for your wand•…ings in it, as well as in prayer. 3ly, That ye should take in all, at least, the general circumstances of it pointed at before, that ye should take time to it, and betake yourselves to it of set purpose, and even now and then when pos∣sibly ye might have some other thing to doe that is not necessary for the time; and that ye should by prayer seek Gods guiding in this particular duty as well as in any other duty, as Moses doeth Psal. 90. Teach us to number our dayes: Be not frighted from it by the ap∣prehended difficulty of it, for as meditation in the general is hard and difficult, so is the particular medi∣tation of death even a subject that we are naturally very averse from, therefore David Prayes, Psal. 39. Page 106Lord teach me to know mine end, &c. and indeed, more frequent and habitual exercise and practise of it, would, thrugh Gods blessing, make it more easy.
For the 2d, Because there is difficulty in this duty as we have just now hinted, we shall therefore propose or point at a few things that may be helps to it; There is nothing we have moe motives to, nor moe memo∣randums of to say so) then of this, take then these helps. 1. Consider seriously the frequent deaths and burials among you every day, whereof ye are wittnesses and at which ye are present, and possibly of several younger, healthier, and stronger then yourselves, and of whom it might have been thought not many dayes since, they would have outlived you: And then re∣flect upon yourselves and see if ye be prepared for death, when ye are in your houses, or goeing in the streets, and hear the bell giving notice of the death of such and such persons, or see the corpses caried forth to their burial place, think on these things, for they are helpful: Therefore Solomon sayes, Better is the day of death then of ones birth, and he gives the reason, for the living will lay it to heart, that is, the living should lay it to heart. 2ly, Look unto, and consider well, your own infirmities, sicknesses, and diseases of one kind or another: There are none but they have the seed of fewer or of moe diseases in them, besides fitts of sicknesse that befal them now and then, and what is the language of all these but this? Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou returne: When folkes have in their bodies the beginnings of rottennesse or of a gangerine, they will spread; ye would hear all these infirmities, diseases, and distempers crying aloud upon you that ye will and must die, for these cry to you every day as that man was cryed unto by one whom he appointed to cry at his doore every morneing, thou art mortal. 3ly, Consider the extra∣ordinary events that befal many men and women, Page 107 some are suddenly stricken downe with palfies, some fall downe and never rise, some goe abroad and never returne, some are stricken with fury and madnesse; and are any of us exempted from these or any of them? 4ly, We commend to you frequent reading of, and meditating on, these Scriptures that speak of death, and of other bookes that treat of that subject, and sett forth most lively the shortnesse of mans life; be often reading of the death of the Saints, many are rather taken up with reading vaine Romances or Sto∣ries, that are unprofitable in comparison of this; and others are, it may be, taken up with mysterious, dark, doubtful, and litle edifieing questions and de∣bats. 5ly, We commend to you to think seriously upon the names that death getts in Scripture, and the comparisons whereby it is there holden forth, for there ar not many things that we can readily mention or meet with, which may not serve to put us in mind of dieing; doe men put off their cloathes? Death is compared to that, 2 Cor. 5. doe we lye downe in our beds to take rest? Death is also compared to that Isay 57. vers. 2. where the Prophet speaking of the righteous, sayeth. He shall enter into peace, they shall rest in their beds: So to the same purpose death is com∣pared to a sleep, one generation goes and another comes and every one sleeps their sleep Psal. 76. v. 5. would ye but reflect when ye are goeing to bed and consider what postour ye are lyeing downe in, and from this bethink yourselves what is out of order, and how ye may be suteably affected with it, and raise up in the morneing with a resolution to practise accord∣ingly, it wer a profitable meditation; death is also called, the way of all flesh, and can we reckon our age or number our years, but it must at least should put us in mind of death that is fast comeing? Yea, can we so much as breath (which is one of the most ordi∣nary things) but it must or at least might put us in Page 108 mind of death? Thou takest away their breath, they die and returne to their dust, sayes the Psalmist, Psal. 104. 29. If there wer but a stop put to this continual breathing of ours, then our life should be quickly found to be but as a vapour that goes up and returnes not againe, that appeareth but for a litle time and then vanisheth away, as Iames sayes, cap. 4. 14. So that we want not suffi∣cient occasions to putt us and keep us in mind of death; but alace! We want heart and affection to the thing, and spiritual-mindednesse to make use of these occa∣siones; Alwayes we leave it on you not only as a duty, but as a very profitable duty, to meditate more on death and to make use of these and the like means to help you to it, and the Lord himselfe blesse them to you.
A 2d Use is for reproofe and conviction, and O! what ground of reproof and challenge does it bring along with it? Wer this the very time of our goeing to die, and of our appearance before our judge, how many of us can say, we have made conscience of think∣ing on our last end? So that the Lord may expostulat with us, as he did with his people of old, Deut. 32. as with a foolish people and unwise, O! that they wer wise, O! that they understood this, that they would consider their latter end; many may sadly say, that they scarcely ever reckoned it among their duties, nor the neglect of it among their sinnes and grounds of challenge, and we fear, which is yet worse and more sad, that it may be said of many, that they doe not resolve to ranke and place it amongst their duties? But if ye will not be prevailed with, to make it and mind it as your duty, be assured it shall be your sin and ye shall have it for your challenge; What? Have ye not the command of God enjoyning it? Hath not the Saints practiseing of it so much, some weight with you? The plainnesse of the duty will make your guilt the greater and you the more inexcusable in your neglecting it; there are none of us but we may goe home with many challenges for our Page 109 being so much intangled with the things of the world; and for the levity, unstayednesse, unsobernesse, and carnalnesse of our Spirits, which make us think so litle and speak so litle of dieing; and if any thoughts of it occurre now and then to our minds, they sink not, they affect not, they leave not suteable impressions: If ye would essay it seriously ye should find the fruit of it, it should further holinesse, it should sober and compose you, and fitt you for any thing that may be comeing in ane ill time, for doeing and for suffering as ye should be called to it, and for death itselfe; God himselfe give you so to essay it, as ye may find the blessed fruit and advantage of it.
Revel. 14: 13.
SInce sin entered into the world, death hath been one of the most terrible things that the children of men have to meet with, even the most terrible of all terrible things; and indeed it is no wonder that they who know not of ane other and better life to come, nor of the way how to come at it, esteime so of it; It is called by Iob cap. 18: 19. The King of terrors, all other terrors are but petty and inconsiderable in respect of this; and it is one of the beleiving-Christian his great Priviledges, that he is armed for death, and that death is disarmed as to him; Death is made a kindly friend to the beleiver, and the terror of it is taken away; & that which the stoutest dar not, dow not, composed∣ly look in the face (though in a fitt of manlinesse as Page 110 they call it, or rather of desperatnesse indeed, some will endeavour to brave it out against death and to bear downe the terror of it) the true Christian only thrugh faith in Christ is a victor over even over this enemie death: The scope of these words as we shew, is, that the Lord knowing how in these calamities & troubles that wer comeing, death would be frequent, and that many of the bodies of his Saints would goe among the rest, though their death be very precious in his sight; And knowing also how despicable their death would be in the eyes of the prophane world; and how that they would be accounted the only wise and happy men that could best shift suffering for Christ and for his truth; and knowing withal how tempting this would be unto them, he premits this seasonable and sweet word of comfort, Blessed are the dead, which die in the Lord, &c. as if he had said, let not beleiv∣ers in Christ think much of death, it will not marr their happinesse but shall rather further and hasten it: So that this word is given to strengthen and comfort the godly against such ane evil time.
From which ground we propose this second doc∣trine: That God hath fully furnished the beleiver in him with comfort and encouradgment against the ter∣riblnesse of death, so that though death be terrible in itselfe, yet the beleiver hes good and sufficient ground of encouradgment against it, and may quietly and comfortably die when God calls him, where and however it shall be; there is nothing in death that needs to fear him, the Word of God hath given him nota∣ble grounds of comfort and encouragment to bear him through it most heartsomely, and in the faith of that word he should walk confidently and comfortably throw the valey of the shaddow of death and fear none ill; There are two things in this doctrine much to the same purpose: 1. That the Lord allowes the beleiver to be comforted in his death, and therefore Page 111 hes allowed him grounds of strong consolation. 2. That the beleiver who hath these grounds, should make use of them to bear him chearfully and comforta∣bly thrugh death; so the Lord speaking of Death and Judgment, Luke 21. 28. sayes to, and commands, be∣leivers in him, When ye shall see these things come to passe, then looke up and lift up your heads for the day of your redemption draweth nigh, beside many other com∣mands t•…at are frequent in the Scriptures to this pur∣pose; and how many of the Saints resting on and improveing these grounds have died most willingly, pleasantly, comfortably, and joyfully? Take for instance old Simeon, who sweetly sayes, Luke 2. Now lettest thou thy Servant depart in peace, &c. He begs leave to be gone; And if ye look to Paul, O! how earnestly does he long for his passe and dimission, and how heartily does he welcome the thoughts of it? Philip. 1: 21. To clear the doctrine a litle, we shall speake somewhat to these two things. 1 What are the things that ordinarly make death terrible. 2. What are the grounds of comfort and refreshing, or the re∣freshful considerations that beleivers have in the way of grace against these grounds of terrour, and the latter will be found very far greater then the former; only take this word of caution or warning, that we speak not of death so, as if it wer comfortable to die simply, or as if it wer so to all; no not so, for its terrible to all them that die in sin and out of Christ; but to them that beleive in him, and take his own way to this blessed end of dieing in him, to all them and to them only, is death comfortable and refreshing, and to none others.
But 1. As to these things that make death terrible and so much to be feared, they are especially these five. 1. There is something natural in death that makes it terrible, and that is, the dissolution of that intime, closse, and strait union, which is betwixt the soul Page 112 and the body; which separation of these two great in∣timates being contrarie to nature, cannot but be ab∣horrent and terrible to it; and death withal, in its large extent, being a part and fruit of the curse, and a bitter fruit of mans departure from God, its no won∣der it be terrible. 2ly, There is something in death that is penal; as it is the wages of sin (just now hinted) it hath challenges flowing from the law with it, which speake in the conscience; this is the fruit of sin, and hath a right with it to dominion over the sinner flowing from the breach of the Law of God; and wer there no more then this in death it might make it terrible to all; Hence its said, 1 Cor. 15: 20. that the sting of death is sin, because it wer nothing to die if there wer no challenge for sin in it; and the strength of sin is the Law, because the Law curseth every one that conti∣nues not in all things that are written in it to doe them, Gal. 3. 10. So that by this meanes death hath domi∣nion over all, and brings all as in their natural condi∣tion under wrath. 3ly, There is something that is ac∣cidental (if we may so speak) in death, and that is, the greatnesse and greivousnesse of paine that ordinarly takes hold of men and women when death as a King of terrors draws near; and sometimes some other circum∣stances concurre to make it terrible, as namely, that it comes at such a time, very surpriseingly, that it comes by such a sort of sicknesse that it may be is loathsome and somewhat thought shame of, that it trysts the per∣son in such a place and among such a company, and it may be at distance from all friends and familiars. 4ly, There is a•…e uncowthnesse and strangenesse in the thing, that makes it terrible; the man that now is a dieing never died before, and none can tell him to the full and to the life what and how great a thing it is to lay downe his life; a thing which he never experienced before; for his thoughts, affections, delights, de∣sires, and designes are all much changed and altered Page 113 from what they wer; Yea, that wherein he had pleasure is possibly his bane and torment; his thoughts of the world are quite another thing then sometime they wer; It is then no wonder that folkes scar and be very fearful to adventure on a voyage, whereof none can give them a particular and exact account as having sailed it before them, and with which they themselves have never been acquainted, and which hath such ter∣rible effects, especially where faith in Christ is want∣ing. 5ly, That which accompanies and followes death makes it terrible, if it wer to goe to the dust as the beast doeth, it wer nothing so terrible, but to have ane immortal soul that must appear befor the tri∣bunal of the great God, and must goe through the hands of his holy severe Justice, where the least sin will draw on damnation, and where the sentence thats once past is never to be revocked; O! what a con∣cerning and terrible thing is that? And however while men are in health they think but litle of it, yet it hath a broad look at death: Nay if you will consider men as men, much more as having some light of the Gospel, ye would think it matter of admiration, that the se∣rious thoughts of what followeth after death, doeth not putt them quite beside themselves, and fright them out of their witts; However, to die carelesly and without satisfaction anent ane interest in Christ, is doubtlesse a most terrible thing.
In the 2d place, If ye look to the allowance that beleivers have, and to their grounds of comfort against these things that are terrible in death, ye will see them to be far greater and stronger then they are terrible; For clearing whereof, Consider, 1. The grounds of the beleivers peace and comfort in dieing. 2. The fruits that flow from these grounds, which are exceed∣ing refreshing and encouradging, and which ye would carefully gather and lay up against the time of dieing, and take such a way of living as ye may have right to them when ye come to die.
Page 114First then for the grounds of beleivers peace and comfort, consider these, 1. Gods over-ruleing pro∣vidence in the least circumstance that concernes a be∣leivers death, Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his Saints, Psal. 116. v. 15. He lookes to their death as a matter of special concernment, the time, the sicknesse, the kind of death, whither a violent or natural, a lingring or sudden death, are all determined & concluded with him. I said, sayes David, thou art my God, my times are in thy hand, deliver me from the hand of mine enemies, Psal. 31. 15. his interest in God sweetneth all to him, and it also comforts him against the persecution of enemies, that it was not in mens hand to putt ane end to his life when they pleased, but in Gods. 2ly, Consider our Lord Jesus his special commission in reference to death as he is Mediator, whom God hath furnished with all power in Heaven and Earth; Therefore when Iohn is affrayed to die Revel. 1. v. 18. He laid his hand on him, and said unto him fear not, I have the keyes of Hell and of Death: The godly need not be surprised with it, as if it could seaze or take hold of them without commission, for death hath not the keyes of itselfe in keeping, but he beares them all; the world cannot take the bodily life of a Saint from him, till he grant a commission for that effect: Is it not then very comfortable to be in such a blessed estate about which he doeth in a special manner order and command all? Most certainly it is. A 3d ground of consolation, is taken from our Lords satisfaction and death; and this is a maine one which hath many grounds of comfort in it, he died and was laid in the grave; Hence 1, He hath satisfied the Law and taken away the curse, 2 Cor. 5. v. last. He was made sin for us who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousnesse of God in him: Christ hath re∣deemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us. Gal. 3. 13. Blotting out the hand-writing of ordi∣nancesPage 115that was against us, and that was contrary to us, taking it out of the way and nailing it to his crosse, and haveing spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly triumphing over them in it, Col. 2: 14, 15. his death is our victory over death, he disarmed the Devil by his dieing, and became the death of death, as it is, Hosea 13. O death I will be thy plagues, O grave I will be thy destruction; He by lyeing in the grave hath sweetned it to beleivers, so that they need not fear to lye where he lay. 2. His resurrection compleats the consolation, it shewes that death is his captive, that it prevailed not over him, but that he prevailed over it and spoiled it of its power; so that beleivers may sweetly sing, O death where is thy sting? O grave where is thy victory? Thanks be to God who hath given us the victory, th•…ugh Christs resurrection, he having satis∣fied for them and in their roome; this is the ground of the Apostles triumph, Rom. 8. 33. Who shall lay any thing to the charge of Gods elect? It is God that justifies, who shall condemne? It is Christ that died, yea rather that is risen againe; Let the Law, Justice, the Devil, and sin come forth, they have no just ground of chal∣lenge or plea against the beleiver, for the debt is payed, Christ is dead and risen and hath gote a discharge; this is the fundation of a beleivers comfort, considering that Christ died to prevent all right in any party or per∣son to challenge or implead him. 3. His intercession yet further compleats the consolation, for he hath not left the beleiver to die his alone nor to live his alone, but the benefits of his purchase are made forth-co∣meing for him, according to his prayer, John 17. 24. (& he is the same now in Heaven that he was on earth) where he sayeth, Father, I will that these whom thou hast given me be with me where I am, that they may behold my glory: The summe of his intercession, is to ge•…t beleivers made conquerours, and it is not fully satisfied •…ill they be compleatly so; This is a very great ground of Page 116 comfort, that when the beleiver cannot pray for him∣selfe, and possibly his senses fail and are gone, and the prayers of others can be but litle refreshing, that even then he is reached by the benefite of Christs in∣tercession. A 4th ground, is the consideration of Gods Covenant, and of his love and faithfulnesse in keep∣ing Covenant, even in and through death, when Da∣vid 2 Sam. 23: 5. is about to comfort himselfe against death (which seems to be his scope in these words) he draws his comfort from this ground, that God hath made with him ane everlasting Covenant, ordered in all things and sure: And the Covenant holds forth five propperties in God, that doe most strongly comfort against death: 1. The Love of God, that is stronger then death, for death will never overcome it, but it overcomes death; Who shall separat us from the Love of God, saveth the Apostle, Rom. 8: 37 shall tribulation, or distresse, or persecution &c? Nay in all these things, we are more then conquerours through him that loved us: The love of God getts the victory, and gives the be∣leiver the victory over all not only in life but in death, it being of infinitly broad extent and of everlasting du∣ration. 2. His Faithfulnesse in this Covenant is plighted to the beleiver, which death takes not away, hence God is said to be the God not of the dead, but of the living; Though Abraham be dead yet is he his God still, the covenant-relation is not dissolved, but as he is faithful in keeping Covenant to him while he is alive, so is he at death, which is the prefixed terme for makeing all the promises of the Covenant fully forthcomeing, and for entring beleivers in possession of them. A 3d prop∣perty, is Gods Wisedome in frameing the Covenant so suteably, that it comforts not only in life but at death, therefore its said to be ordered in all things, the promi∣ses of grace and mercy in the Covenant, are not only to give pardon here alonge the beleivers life, but assured quietnesse at death, even though sense and feiling be Page 117 gone. A 4th propperty, is the Iustice of God, which though it seem to be most terrible, yet is it comforta∣ble to beleivers against death, Henceforth is laid up for me, sai•…h the Apostle, 2 Tim. 4. 8. a crowne of righteous∣nesse, which God the righteous judge shall give to me at that day: For it is just with God to give to beleivers what Christ hath bought and purchased at so dear a rate for them, to give them comfort who have betaken them∣selves to him for it; for though he gives nothing to beleivers on the accompt of their merit, yet there is a su•…eablenesse and proportionablenesse by which he walks towards them, and without all doubt Christ hath merited these great things for them, which God in Justice is oblidged to him to bestow on them The 5th and last propperty, is the Power of God, which is engadged for the keeping beleivers to salvation, 1 Pet. 1: 5. he hath spoken the word and he can and will make it good, and there is nothing wherein his power shines forth more conspicuously, then in their supportance and through-bearing in their death, when tentations are readily strongest. A 5th ground, is the begun operation and work of the Spirit of God, con∣sidered either as his comfortable work, as he is the Spirit of adoption bearing witnesse with their Spirits, or as it is his sanctifieing and mortifieing work, killing inward lusts, or as it is his strengthning or quickning work, whereby he keeps life in the beleiver, and gives him ane earnest of that which is comeing; the more of these he hath he may the more quietly and comfortably die, the seed of God is in him and is keept still alive in him; And now since God in his provi∣dence, Christ in his death, resurrection, intercession, and administration of his offices, Gods Covenant and all his propperties, with the work of his Spirit, are all ingadged for the beleiver; what more can be re∣quired for his comfortable through-bearing in death? And yet all these are Gods allowance on him, even on Page 118 every one that hath made his peace with God through Jesus Christ; are they not then, O! are they not blessed that die in the Lord?
In the 2d place, take some comfortable considera∣tions as so many fruits that spring from these grounds, or as so many fruits of Gods love and everlasting Cove∣nant. 1. God gives charge to his Angels to attend on beleivers at death, for convoying their soules to the bosome of Abraham, Luk. 16. for if Angels be mi∣nistring Spirits to page and wait on them in their life, they are much more so at their death; God is so ten∣der of them that he hath Angels moe then one waiting on them; And though this come not up the length of the former grounds of comfort, springing more im∣mediatly from the Father, the Sone, and the Holy Spirit, yet its exceeding comfortable when neither Minister nor Friend can comfort, that they have glo∣rious Angels to be with them for ever, to convoy them to Heaven, which is by them accounted ane ho∣nourable peice of service. 2. The present happinesse wherewith the soul is possessed on the back of death, (for its immediatly caried as I said, to the bosome of Abraham, or rather to the bosome of Jesus Christ) Take a word of it in these two (which we spoke to more largely before,) 1. They have a perfect freedome from all ills of this life, no sin, no challenge, no accusa∣tion, no crosse, no difficulty, no weight, all •…ears are wiped from their eyes, sorrow and sighing flee away, they have absolute freedome from all the disquietnesse that is here: 2. They are brought to the possession of their hope, they are brought to the immediat injoy∣ment of God and of Christ as man visible, they are furnished with all desyreable perfections, nothing is now in part, all is perfect, they are perfect in know∣ledge, they have a clear resolution to all their doubts anent things which we disput long about here with much contention, and seldome come to a clearly satis∣fieing Page 119 close; a glance of God and of Christ fully satis∣fieth as to all these; There is ane admission to all the priviledges of Heaven, a place given among them that stand by, a sitting on Thrones with Abraham, Isaac, Iacob▪ M•…ses, Samuel, David, and with the rest of the Prophets; with Paul, Iames▪ Iohn, and the rest of the Apostles, where they behold the face of God and of the Lamb, and are amongst his attendants serveing him alwayes without any the least wearinesse, weight, or burden, without any difficulty or indispo∣sition, and blessing and praising him for ever and ever; And is not this a most heartsome and comfortable life and lot? May not a beleiver then yeild to death, yea and make it very welcome on this ground? Consider∣ing what a miserable world he lives in, and how emi∣nently, aboundantly, and superexcellently all the vaine and evanishing shaddowes and shews here away are made up, by what is most real, solid, substantial, satisfieing, and abiding there. There is 3ly, the re∣surrection of beleivers bodies; though this tabernacle be dissolved and goe to the dust, yet up again it must; and that part of Isaias his songe, Cap. 26. is then emi∣nently verified, Thy dead men shall live, togither with my dead body shall they arise; awake and sing ye that dwell in the dust, for their dew is as the dew of herbes, and the earth shall cast out the dead: As in winter the herbes are not seen, yet the roots remaine in the ground and they rise againe in the spring, so (sayeth faith resting on the word of promise) shall the bodies of the godly and these that lye downe mortal rise immortal, having agility and aptitude to follow the Lamb whither∣soever he goes; these bodies that wer sown in cor•…up∣tion & dishonour, and which after a while lyeing in the ground become very loathsome, shall be raised in in∣corruption and glory, even conforme to the glorious body of Jesus Christ; these bodies that wer sown in weaknesse, even such weaknesse that they could not Page 120 goe on their own feet to the grave, nay that wer with∣out all life, motion, sense, and feiling, shall be raised in power, as you may see at greater length in these ex∣cellently sweet and comfortable words of the Apostle, 1 Cor. 15. wherein not only he clears the great truth of the resurrection, but also shewes what grounds of comfort himselfe and other beleivers had against death in it. 4ly and lastly, Consider what will be the souls and the bodies case when that desyreable day of the re∣surrection comes, when these two old intimats shall meet togither, and as it wer renew their acquaintance againe in much better condition then they parted, there will be no more a wrestling thenceforth betwixt flesh and spirit, but a holy harmony in ane unit and joint enjoying of God, in ane unit and joint delight∣ing in, and serving of God, and in ane unit and joint satisfaction in God and in being with God for ever∣more, for we shall be for ever wi•…h the Lord, saith the Apostle, 1 Thess. 4. Wherefore, sayeth he, comfort one another with these words; As indeed there is good and non-such ground to doe: Consider withall the great honour they will have at Judgment, and the happinesse following it. To returne then to what we proposed, seeing beleivers in Christ have such preg∣nant and impregnable grounds to comfort them against death, and seeing such sweet and passing-excellent fruits flow from these grounds, and since there is such a begun good at death that hath no end, may they not be very quiet in their life and at their death, and be exceedingly comforted, whatever be the time, the place, or manner, that God in his wisedome shall think fitt to call them by death out of this present evil world?
We come now to the Uses of this sweet point of doctrine; And the first use is of exhortation to be∣leivers: 1. To lay up this comfort, and 2ly, To blesse God for this comfort, that he hath provided so Page 121 very well for you both in this life, and at and after your death; 3ly, Blesse him that ever he was graciously pleased to bring you to this happy condition, when he might have left you altogither comfortlesse both in life and death, O! blesse him that he hath given his Sonne Jesus Christ, that he is come, and that grace is through him extended that broad as to take you in: It should make you cry with holy David in a transport of admiration, what am I, and what is my fathers house, that thou hast brought me hitherto: 2 Sam. 7. and with him to say, I blesse the Lord that hath given me counsel, Psal 16,
But 2ly, There are two uses we would speak a litle more particularly to, the first whereof, is to exhort you to that which is the summe of all we have spoken to you from these words, even to study to live so as ye may die in Christ, which death, hath so many and so strong grounds of consolation waiting it, that all the world cannot possibly parallel or equal them; If here wer not another motive to presse you to faith in Christ, and to mortification, and to the makeing of your calling and election sure, this is suffi∣cient, that these things have such comforts at death and against it, which are the most uncontravertibly sure, stable, and lasting grounds of comfort; other grounds of comfort that goe quite dry and evanish at death, are but miserable comforters, and like Iob's winter-brookes of water, that in summer disappoint the weary traveller, and send him away ashamed; but these comforts can guard the heart against the law, against challenges for sin, and against the Devil; nay let us suppose, that there wer millions of Devils, and of challenges for sin, and of laws transgressed thereby, to speak and passe sentence against the beleiver in Christ, there is mighty and mervelous ground of com∣fort for him against them all here, he may appear and appeal and confidently say, there are moe with me Page 122 then against me; death to him wants its sting, and •…in its strength, and he may stop over the bound-rode (to say so) and border of time into eternity, with a song of praise and triumph in his mouth, and die as quietly and confidently as if he wer to lye downe in his bed, as it is Isa. 57. v. 1, 2. yea, with a great deal more quietnesse, confidence, and chearfulnesse: Therefore wer ye to choise a way of living, let it be this, even to live so as ye may die in Christ; This is, as I said, the great scope of all that we have spoken from these words, even to stirr you up to live so as ye may be happy at your death, and that is to die in him: I shall propose but one consideration to inforce this upon you, and its this, that way of living and dieing hath with it ane alteration of the nature of all things; when a man is ane enemy to God, all things are ac∣cursed to him, but when he is befreinded to God and in good termes with him, all things are blessed to him, and work togither for his good, Rom. 8. v. 28 and death comes in amongst these all things; All things are yours, saith the Apostle, 1 Cor. 3. at the close, whi∣ther Paul, or Cephas, life, or death, things present, or things to come, they are all at your service, they are all yours as to the blest use of them; they work togi∣ther for your good, and prove all contributive and sub∣servient to your bringing to glory.
The 2d Use on the other hand, is to lett all of you see what great prejudice ye suffer, and what disadvan∣tage ye lye under, that live not so as ye may die in Christ; ye have nothing to doe with any the least of all these consolations, and therefore in the name of the Lord ye are inhibited and discharged to medle with them; See that none of you who resolve not to rest on Christ by faith, to live holily, and to shew forth his praise, by a shineing and exemplary conver∣sation, dar to prefume to put forth your hand to touch these consolations; that terrible word in the 7. of Iere∣mie,Page 123 calls for your consideration, Will ye steal, murd∣er, and commit adultery, and swear falsly, and come and stand before me in this House, and say we are delivered to doe all these abominations? Will ye take your own way of prophane living, and yet expect any benefite of my Covenant, or any saveing fruit of my grace; As God reckoned with profaine Israel, so shall he reckon with you, and shall separat you from his peo∣ple unto a curse, and the anger of God shall smoak against you; not one gracelesse sinner shall be per∣mitted to joine himselfe with, or to lurke amongst, the great company and congregation of these godly; An∣gels shall separat you from them, and the sentence of the judge shall separat you from him and them with that doolful, depart from me, ye workers of iniquity; and that sentence will be as terrible to you as the god∣lies sentence will be comfortable to them, Come ye blessed of my Father &c. Take notice of this all ye that think ye would faine die well, (and no mervel, for so did prophane Balaam desyre to die the death of the righteous) but have no care to live well; when all t•…is doctrine is summed up, it will draw your happi∣nesse on this very hinge and bring it to this issue, whi∣ther ye will indeed in the Lords strength se•…t your∣selves to live so as ye may die in Christ, then in this case all these consolations, even all the consolations of the Gospel, shall be yours, but not one of them all is yours otherwayes; To them that die in the Lord and to them only, is happinesse promised, but on the contrary to all them that live not to him, and die not in him, God is ane enemy in life and in death, his curse followes them here, and cleaves closse to them as a girdle doeth to the loines of a man in the grave, so that they shall never be able to shake it off; sins and challenges shall then be multiplied, death shall then putt forth its stinge and sin its strength; the grave shall then obtaine full victory over them, it shall feed on Page 124 them; but it shall not be so with the godly, it shall have no dominion over them as it hath over the wicked that die in their sinnes and out of Christ, death and the curse make a morsal, as it wer, of all that live and die out of Christ, it eats them up & consumes them for evermore; when the first death is over and gone, the second death takes hold of them and never lets goe its hold; so that death will still, even through all eter∣nity pursue the quarrel against them, And therefore let me shut up all with two words; The 1st whereof is to you who make conscience of being and living in Christ, though ye come short of that which ye much covet and long to be at, and is called for from you, which is your burden and affliction; yet consider what a comfortable allowance ye have from God, who is the God of all consolation, and be comforted in it; what ever be your lot and condition in the world, be what it will or may be, a litle time will put it by and to ane end; Therefore I say, take encouragment from these grounds of consolation that God hath given you against the terriblenesse of death, and walk so as ye may not marr your own comfort; and with∣all, blesse God who hath given you such good ground of hope, ye have more to make a truely comfortable life to you, then all the Kings and great men in the earth have that are out of Christ; ye may be very sinfully defective in this much called-for duty of bles∣sing God, who hath provided so notably well for you, and may robe him of the glory that is infinitly due to him from you, on many O! very many accounts, if ye looke not to it.
The 2d word, is to all of you whom we would earnestly beseech, for the Lords sake, and as ye prize these mercies, to take the way that God hath shalked out to come by them; dieing in the Lord is the great qualification that hath all these comforts annexed to it, and living in, and to him, is the indispensably re∣quisit Page 125 qualification of all that would die in him, and this is to live by faith in the Sone of God, and to live Christ-like, to live so as Christ may live in you and ye may live in him, that the truth and the straitnesse of your union with him may be evident and apparent by the fruits of it; In a word, to live in continual com∣munion with him, and in the closse and constant pursute of conformity to him; We will dar to say to you that live so, yea, to all of you on condition ye will through grace choise this way of living, that ye shall die happie, for the mouth of the Lord hath spok∣en it, and will make it good, Blessed are they which die in the Lord, he hath pronounced blessednesse on such, in death and after death; And upon the other hand, if ye will betake yourselves to the way of the most part, and live carnally and carelesly, and will not think more on death, and will doe no more to prepare and make ready for it, alace! we must say to you, and dar not but say to you, and the Lord will ratifie and confirme it, that ye have nothing to doe with these comforts of his people, nor have any part or portion in them; And if so, what have ye to comfort yourselves in, though ye were all Kings and Queens, of the most opulent, potent, and floorishing Kingdoms in the World? God will say to you, that ye had nothing to doe, to take his Cove∣nant in your mouths, since ye hated to be reformed: And though poor wretches, ye now live in car∣nal mirth and jollity, yet your laughter and joy, your singing and dancing, shall by and by be turned into mourning, into weeping, wailing, and gnash∣ing of teeth, as your mirth and laughter end, your weeping and houling shall begin but never end: Is there not then, O! is there not great, vastly great difference betwixt dieing in sin and dieing in Christ? And all this depends on your way of living, And is there not a necessity, a most absolute and indispensible ne∣cessity Page 126 of your being in him, and of your living in him and to him, as ye would not to your eternal pre∣judice and losse, be found mistaking or not duely con∣sidering these things that belonge to your peace, till this your day be over and gone, and matters betwixt him and you be past all ridding and remedy? Now the Lord himselfe who only can doe it, powerfully perswade and prevail with you, so to live that ye may have the well-grounded hope of dying in Christ, since blessed and only blessed are they who die in the Lord, who rest from their lábours and whose works follow them.
Advertisement by Agness Campbell, relict of the deceast Mr. William Guthrie, late Minister of the Gospel, to suc•… unto whose hands some printed papers, called Sermons, bearing the said Mr. William Guthrie his name, may come.
BEing much afflicted with the sight of some printed papers or Sermons, to which the name of my worthy Husband, now with the Lord, is prefixed, by these who have published them, because I found many things therein injurious, not only to his memorie, but to the truth; I was therefor at the paines to cause compare them with his notes I have beside me, and likewayes, to interrogat some of his most conscientious and judicious ordinary hearers yet living, anent the same; And after due and serious consideration of the whole, I dar very confidently declare, that they are not the genuine works and Sermons of my forsaid Husband, which may be very evident to all that knew him, considering the per∣plexed stile, the confusion and want of connexion, and a multitude of vain repetitions, that are oftentimes to be found therein, as also want of that clear method fa∣miliar to him, togither with the unsoundnesse sometimes of the matter, which was known to be far from him, being well instructed in the forme of sound words, which in all discourses to the people he held fast. More∣•…ver, there be many things therein clear nonsense andPage 128not intelligible by the •…eader, a fault very far from his way in preaching But this is to be the lesse wondered at, seeing that w•…en he was yet alive, some made bold to print some S•…mons of his without his knowledge, which he wo•…ld not own, and therefor was necessitat to emit these papers himselfe, to the advantage of the truth, which otherwayes had been wronged. It is hoped therefor that every conscientious person will be so far tende•… of the truth, and of the fame of such a faith∣ful Minister of the Gospel, who is not now to speak for himselfe, that they will not look upon these printed Sermons a•… his works, seeing they have been put forth to the publick view, without the knowledge or consent of any of his relations, or Brethren of the Ministry, who wer particularly acquaint with him and his way of doc∣trine, and to whom if he had minded any thing for the press, he would have left the charge of the oversight thereof: The world hath already had a taste of his gift, and of the Spirit that appeared in him, in that useful litle book published by himselfe, and blessed of God to the edification of many, which I hope will easily move the observing and judicious Reader, to have these lately printed under his name in suspition; I shall add no more but for the future entreat, that nothing bearing his name, may be looked upon as his, that is not attested by his nearest relations, and his Brethren of the ministrie, This from
Thy Well-wisher A. C.