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All who have become holy as God is holy, and renounced the service of sin, have presented themselves as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is their reasonable service. And since saints are the Lord's by election, by sanctification, and by self-dedication, there is just ground for his calling and treating them as his own, in distinction from those who will not have him to reign over them.

I now proceed to show,

II. That God takes peculiar care of the death of his saints. They are precious in his sight. They are his friends, his servants, and his children. He has a more than paternal affection for them. When parents send their children at a distance to gain instruction in some business, art, or science, to qualify them to be useful and happy in life, they take peculiar care to call them home at the proper time and for the proper purpose. So after God has placed his children in this distant part of his wide dominions, and has prepared them for his more immediate service, he takes peculiar care and pleasure in calling them home to his large family in heaven. And as the heavenly inhabitants rejoice at their conversion, so they undoubtedly rejoice at their glorification, which commences at death. Since this is a very important event, we may well conclude that God will take peculiar care in the course of providence, to order all circumstances respecting it in the wisest and best manner.

Here then it may be observed,
1. He always takes care when his saints shall die.

Though he does not exempt them from dying, the common lot of humanity, yet he takes particular care of their dying hour. While they live, they are exposed to all the diseases and accidents to which the rest of the world are liable. But he keeps his watchful eye upon them, amidst the pestilence that walketh in darkness, and the destruction that wasteth at noonday. He spreads his broad hand over them, and keeps their eyes from tears, their feet from falling, and their souls from death, until the appointed time of their change is come. And he has appointed that their change shall not come until they have experienced a change of heart. The time of death is as important to saints as the salvation of their souls. For should any fatal disease or accident befall them before they have made their peace with God, they would be ruined for ever. Had Paul died before he went to Damascus and met with the saving grace of God, his case would have been as fatal as that of Judas. How many have been made subjects of saving grace after they have come to years of maturity; how many after they come to the meridian of life; and how many even in old age! Death in infancy would have prevented the salvation VOL. III.

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of such persons. Hence God takes peculiar care that those whom he has chosen to salvation should be effectually preserved from all the arrows of death flying around them, until they are prepared for heaven. He guards them when they go out and when they come in, when they lie down and when they rise up; and suffers no fatal evil to come nigh them, until they have become reconciled to him upon the terms of the gospel. Nor does he suffer death to take them out of the world, before they have done all the good which he had for them to do in this life. He forms them for his own service, and designs they shall be the salt of the earth and light of the world, while they live in it. He employs them as free, voluntary instruments of promoting the temporal and spiritual good of mankind. He appoints to all saints their times of service. To some he appoints a shorter and to others a longer period of labor, and never calls any out of his vineyard, until they have finished the work which he gave them to do. Their time of service is highly interesting to him, to the world, and to themselves; and therefore he takes peculiar care when they shall die.

2. God takes care that his saints shall die, not only at the best time, but under the best circumstances. He is the only competent judge of these things, and often displays peculiar wisdom, goodness and sovereignty, in disappointing the desires and hopes of saints respecting the circumstances of their leaving the world. They often imagine that the circumstances of their death might be better ordered, and their friends often entertain the same opinion. But as God knows the best time, so he knows the best circumstances, of every instance of mortality; and he always orders these in the wisest and best manner, in respect to the death of his saints. He directs that one of his saints shall come to the grave by the mere infirmi. ties of old age, as a shock of corn fully ripe in its season. He directs that one of his children shall die by a slow, piercing, painful sickness, and that another shall be called out of time into eternity by a sudden and unexpected stroke, without any premonition or warning of his last hour. He directs that some of his saints shall die at home, surrounded by their friends and acquaintance and every desirable circumstance; but that others shall die far from home, and far from all their acquaintance, die relatives and friends. He directs that some of his saints shall in the full vigor of all their rational powers, and with delightful views of heavenly and divine objects; but that others shall die destitute of the light of his countenance, and involved in darkness, doubts and despondency respecting their happy state beyond the grave. In a word, God orders all the vast variety of circumstances attending the death of his saints. But in all

this variety, he has a just regard to his own glory, to the good of the dying, and to the good of the living. Not a single circumstance happens by chance, but every one is ordered by unerring wisdom and perfect goodness, and designed to answer some wise and benevolent end. And it is easy to see, that, by calling his saints from the stage of life under such a vast variety of circumstances, God may accomplish as great a variety of important purposes. For the circumstances in which the excellent of the earth leave the world, often make deeper and more permanent impressions upon the minds of the living, than their death itself. The eye and the ear affect the heart; and it is what the living see and hear, in respect to dying saints, that affects them more than their transition out of time into eternity, which they cannot see.

Slow and lingering deaths may give the dying happy opportunities of instructing, counselling and warning those around them, and conversing with them. Sudden deaths may alarm and awaken the secure and thoughtless, who would take no notice of a less striking instance of mortal.

a ity. The calm, peaceful deaths of saints give a beauty, a reality and importance, to vital piety. To see saints die in triumph as Paul did after having fought a good fight, and finished his course with fidelity, is animating to pious christians, and condemning to all unbelievers. And those godly ones, who have long been in bondage through fear of death, and die in doubt and darkness, read a solemn lecture to all professors of godliness, to be constantly preparing for their own final hour, that they may leave the world in peace to themselves, and to all who are spectators of their last act upon the stage of life. Now, God always knows what circumstances it is best should attend every one of his dying saints, and he takes care that such and only such circumstances shall attend his saints in their dying moments, as are best adapted to answer the best purposes. This is an act of covenant kindness and faithfulness to those who die in the Lord. I must add,

3. That God takes care of his saints, when their pure and immortal spirits leave their clayey tabernacle, and take their course to the world of light. He knows that death is a great and solemn change, and he will not forsake them while passing through it. This David confidently believed, and said, “ Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death Í will fear no evil : for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.Nor will God take less care of his saints after they are absent from the body, but provide proper guar. dians to guide them in the path to heaven. There is good reason to believe that he appoints one or more of his holy angels, to lead every pious departed spirit to the regions of the blessed. We know that when Lazarus died, he was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom. Peter had his guardian angel; and it is very probable, that every saint has his guardian angel, who attends him through life, takes care of his departed spirit, and conducts him safely to the mansion Christ has gone before to provide for him. After this, God will take care of the newly arrived spirits, and give their angels charge to make them known to those, with whom they had once lived, and conversed, and were united in christian affection. Their employments also will undoubtedly be pointed out, as well as their due rewards allotted them. These important conse. quences of death God will take peculiar care of, and so order them, as to give the most perfect satisfaction to all the inhabi. tants of heaven. God for wise and good reasons has reserved the scenes and objects, the employments and enjoyments of heaven very much in his own power, and has never gratified his friends on earth with a clear and full description of their future and happy state. He has only told them in general," that eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” But though all saints will be perfectly happy after death, yet the degrees of their happiness will be measured by their holy and acceptable services in this life. They will be rewarded according to their works here on earth. Some will be placed nearer, and some more remote from the Lord of glory. Some will enjoy higher, and some lower advantages for gaining light and instruction. Some will belong to higher, and some to lower circles of just men made perfect. Some will have higher, and some lower employments in heaven. But as soon as God calls home to his heavenly kingdom all his saints, he will fill their hearts with perfect holiness, banish from their minds every painful reflection and anticipation, and make them completely blessed in the enjoyment of himself, and wipe away all tears from their eyes. Hence it is written for the consolation of all living saints, “ Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord; yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors; and their works do follow them." Thus precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints, in respect to the time, the circumstances, and happy consequences of exchanging time for eternity.

IMPROVEMENT.

1. If God treats his saints in such a manner as has been said, then we may learn the extent of his sovereignty towards all mankind. Though divine sovereignty is one of the plain

est doctrines of the gospel, yet it is so disagreeable to the human heart, that many are very unwilling to believe and acknowledge it, in its fullest extent. They will allow that he acts as a sovereign in creating, preserving, and governing the natural world; but they will not allow that he acts as a sovereign in governing the moral world. But it appears from what has been said concerning his conduct towards his saints, that he acts as a sovereign in his disposal of the whole human race. His sovereignty towards his saints begins in eternity. He chose them to salvation before the foundation of the world, and set them apart for himself, in distinction from all the rest of mankind. He continues his sovereignty towards them through life. He determines when and where they shall be born, where and how long they shall live, what diseases, dangers, and accidents they shall escape, when and where they shall meet with a saving change, when and where they shall die, what circumstances shall precede and attend their dying moments, what angels shall convey their pure departed spirits to the kingdom of heaven, and put them into the mansions which Christ has prepared for them. Such is the extent of God's sovereignty over his saints; and it is no less extensive over the rest of mankind, who are not and never will be saints. Over these he exercised his amiable and awful sovereignty before the foundation of the world, not by electing them to eternal life, but by ordaining them to final condemnation, through impenitence and unbelief. He continues his sovereignty towards them through life. He determines when and where they shall be born, where and how long they shall live, what diseases, dangers, and accidents shall befall them, when and where they shall

, die, what circumstances shall precede and attend their dying moments, and what evil angels shall seize their departed spirits and confine them in the regions of despair. Such is the full extent of God's sovereignty over the whole human race. He has mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth. What if some do not believe the doctrine of divine sovereignty in such an extensive latitude ? Shall their unbelief prove it false? No; it shall prove it to be true. apostle Peter declares. “Wherefore it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Zion a chief corner-stone, elect, precious; and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded. Unto you, therefore, which believe, he is precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner, and a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient; whereunto also they were appointed.” All who disbelieve, deny and oppose the doctrine

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