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amusements, that happiness which they can never yield to an immortal spirit; but all in vain: they have determined to make their own experience contradict such admonitions as these, which they impute to religious gloom, to want of worldly wisdom, to some defect of mind, or some unfriendliness of disposition. Others may have been rich without being happy; but they are confident, that could they recover health, prosecute their well formed plans of business and become wealthy, their souls would find satisfaction in their possessions. Others may have entered into flattering connexions, may have been surrounded by desirable relatives, may have obtained the most enviable distinctions, may have been honoured of men for making their way to the head of their profession, and then may have pronounced the whole to be disappointment and vexation of spirit; but they can never admit to themselves, that they should not taste of pure felicity, if they could be thus prosper
Hitherto they have not been rendered truly happy, by the world; but past disappointment has not discouraged them. O could they live, could they have good health, could they eat and drink with pleasure, could they go on in business and prosper, the world would certainly make them blessed: if not,they can expect gratification no where. This life is the centre of all their hopes, and therefore they cling to it, poor worldlings! with the last grasp of their expiring nature. How pitiable their state ! “If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him;" and they love the world ;-yes, they love nothing else. No wonder that they wish to recover strength, and continue longer here below! but if they should live as long as Methuselah, without God in the world, they might still be chasing a phantom, which would elude their suit; and must die at last, crying to the world, and the things of the world, “ give! give!"
Let me ask, my dear people, if many of you have not been sick, and felt, that should you die, you would lose every thing which you love, and from which you expect felicity? Have you ever seriously looked beyond the present state of existence to the source of your comforts and delights? Aye, if you continue in your present frame of soul, and depart this life, loving, hoping in, and relying upon, the creature, more than the Creator, and preferring a vain, showy, sinful world to the habitation of God's holiness; it would have been well for you,
had last sickness hurried you to the grave; yes, and far better for you, never to have been born. I fear lest this should be the unhappiness of many of you, who have been dear to me as acquaintance, friends, and the persons of my pastoral charge; and I beseech you, therefore, seriously to consider, why you
should wish to live any longer.
2. Some sick persons wish to recover, principally from a conviction that death would launch their souls into a miserable eternity. They believe some parts of divine revelation, much against their inclinations; for they feel some remorse of that conscience which never dies; know that they are condemned by the law of God which they habitually violate; and cannot but dread the vengeance of that Jehovah who is to the impenitently wicked a consuming fire. Formerly they have known something of the way of life, theoretically, but not cordially and practically. This knowiedge they have neglected; and a more thorough illumination they have not desired, lest their taste for carnal pleasures should be embittered; lest they should be converted, and spiritually healed, so as to sicken at true piety and regale themselves with sin no longer. They have willed to be careless, and to blunt the edge of conviction; and have but too well succeeded. Divers lusts and vanities have they served with supreme devotion; and their danger have they hidden from their eyes, for a season, by the imagined glooms of religion, the veil of prejudice, and the cobweb net-works of worldly business. Sickness, however, has compelled them to reflection, and aroused conscience from her slumbers. They would, but cannot forget themselves: they would but cannot doubt, that there is a hell, for the flames of hell have kindled upon them, and they writhe under some of the incipient horrors of the second death. The world of wo seems arrayed before them in terrible majesty: and their inward thought is, “ if we die in our present state, we shall be for ever damned.” They wish, therefore, to recover from sickness, as they wish to keep out of the bottomless pit. The probability that death is near cannot be patiently endured for a moment. In deep distress from disease, such sick persons toss upon their beds; and when they think their bodily anguish hardly supportable, are sometimes constrained to say, “ how much more intolerable must be the pains of hell! If we cannot endure the misery resulting from a disordered frame, ah! how can we endure everlasting burnings?”
Have none of you, my hearers, on a bed of sickness, desired to recover from such well founded fears of being everlastingly miserable? Have none of you found the threatening disease, which preyed upon your body, rendered a thousand fold more dreadful, by the consciousness that you are destitute of experimental, evangelical religion, and by the certainty, that it shall be ill with the wicked? Well might you fear, and well might you be importunate in your prayers for deliverance from death. Had you died in your sins, you would now have been lifting up your eyes in torment, to the mansions of the blessed, whither you never should have gone. And thanks be to our
merciful Redeemer that he spared you, so that you are still in the land of the living, and prisoners of hope. But what use have you made of this lenity, of this forbear
your offended Maker? Have you been wise to make preparation for future sickness and death? Have you fulfilled one, only one of all the promises which you made on the borders of the grave, and in full view of the eternal world? You said, that you would be wise, would consider, would repent, would be at peace with God, would seek an interest in Jesus Christ; and would no more spend your time in mere worldly concerns, in vanity and sin; but what does your memory now testify? Can you lay your hands on your hearts, and seriously affirm, that you have perseveringly and prayerfully sought to know the Lord, and to perform the vows made in sickness? I am afraid, that conscience, at last, will be a swift witness against many of you on this subject; and that your neglected, forgotten, and perhaps despised and derided, fears of endless misery, which once made you earnestly pray for recovery from sickness, will but prove the aggravation of your interminable punishment; for you were not always perfectly stupid ; your conscience was not always callous ; and you had so much faith as to excite some reasonable apprehensions, before it was for ever too late to think of returning to the Lord. Rest assured, that if your sicknesses have not been the means of convincing and converting you, they have hardened you in iniquity; and if your lengthened space for repentance shall not be employed in preparation for eternity, it will accumulate on your souls mountains of guilt, to sink you deeper and still deeper in the abyss of wo.
To the sick I would give this advice: never pray that your lives may be prolonged, however you may fear hell, unless you seriously intend to seek the one thing needful, and be devoted to God; for you had better die, and sink in perdition now, than live merely to fill up the measure of your iniquity; and thereby render your eternity by many degrees more miserable. And you, my unrenewed hearers, ought not to desire the preservation of your lives for another day, or another hour, unless you intend to become truly religious; and know, every one of you, that your
future conduct will discover the nature of your present determinations. Will you be wise for yourselves; wise to escape perdition; wise to take refuge in the sinner's hiding place? O when, when shall I be able to obtain your consent to be saved, on the terms of the gospel? Will it ever be ? Your past lives, and the present state of your hearts, would induce despair ; but, O thou merciful God, in thee, and in thee alone is ground of hope. Let these fellow sinners live; and for
Christ's sake make them willing to come unto thy mercy seat, in a day of thy sovereign power and grace.
3. Some sick persons desire to recover principally from their doubts whether they are prepared for heaven or not. They are not troubled with horrible apprehensions of future misery; and sometimes fear that they are not true Christians because they are not more distressed about the consequences of sin. They are conscious that they hate iniquity, and wish to turn from every evil way. They really dread sin more than the evils which are likely to result to themselves from transgression; yet they are afraid that they do not love God sincerely, and that they do not exercise a living faith on the Lord Jesus Christ. Could they be assured of a mansion with the Redeemer, they would willingly die; for they have not rivetted their affections to sublunary objects, and they would not wish to live here always. The thought of the possibility of their losing heaven is as the sting of scorpions to their souls; and until they are assured of their going to be with Jesus they cannot quietly think of dying. These persons we apprehend to be renewed: they bear the image of Christ; and their state in the sight of God is a safe one; but they know it not; and therefore cannot derive consolation from the divine testimony, that there is, therefore, now, no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus.
The bed of sickness is not so distressing to these persons, as it is to open despisers, mockers, and abandoned persons, who fear hell without any hope of a holy heaven; nor is it like the one under which the everlasting arms are placed, and from which the happy spirit is ready to depart, that it may be with Christ. My dear friends, come not down to the bed of sickness and of death, I entreat you, without knowing in whom and what you believe. You will have need in the trying hour, in which you seem to hang over the grave and the eternal world by a slender thread, of all the strong consolation which establishment and assurance in the faith of the gospel can afford. You will require unshaken confidence in the righteousness of the Lord Jesus, and firm union of soul to him, to enable you to relinquish all earthly connexions, employments, and enjoyments, and venture through the dark chambers of death, into what will then be to you an untried state of existence. Others, it is true, have gone before you, while others are following; but you must go alone. No voice will then salute your ears with satisfaction, unless it be the voice of your Saviour, saying, “ Fear not: I am with thee: I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee."
If you would like the good old Simeon, say, “Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word,”
you must have previously seen the salvation of God; and been assured that you have hung all your hopes upon the cross.
Surely, the voice of wisdom admonishes you, not only to believe, but to make your calling and election sure, or certain, to yourselves. Surely, it must be desirable to be armed with gospel panoply, before we are called to engage in the last conflict. Will you, then, set yourselves to a prayerful self-examination, and to a comparison of your thoughts, feelings, purposes, words and actions, with those which the scriptures attribute to the saints as their peculiar characteristics? Will you strive to know, whether Christ in reality is formed in you, the hope of glory; or whether you are still reprobates? Some of you, methinks, will consent, not because your pastor entreats, but because God commands, and your own everlasting welfare urges such an attention to your highest interests. If I should be spared to visit you on your death-beds, I hope to hear you whisper, “ I know in whom I have believed: I have kept the faith : I am ready to depart; for, henceforth, there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge will give to me in that day.”
4. Other sick persons are so much affrighted at unreasonable and horrible conceptions of death itself, that they desire on this account principally to recover strength. They have imbibed a notion in childhood or youth, that the pains of dying are always excruciating; and without much considering the reason why they should be struck with horror at the approach of death, they dread not hell itself so much as dying. Hence I have known some, who, without any preparation for escaping hell and entering heaven, seemed to think, that if the agonies of death were past, all would be well,
Such views of dissolution are commonly originated by the weakness or wickedness of parents, who instil it into the minds of their offspring, that nothing is so dreadful as the pangs of a dying hour. Of course, when a sickness is evidently mortal, these unwise, and cruel parents cautiously conceal the truth from their dying children, by imposing silence on all their pious friends, and by excluding the clergyman, under the strict injunction of the physician, that his patient shall not see company. In some such instances, the poor withering mortal is kept free from the apprehensions of the dreaded monster death, until he gasps, and starts to find his soul beyond the bounds of time, launched into an immeasurable eternity : but generally all the care of unadvised friends to conceal the truth from the dying cannot prevent them from suspecting, and anxiously fearing the worst. Yet they are afraid to hear the name of death pronounced, not from any rational apprehension of its awful consequences to the ungodly; but from some undefined notions of