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short in which they may make restitution for the injury they have done.
In short; the days of our age, by the just appointment of God, are reduced to a narrow compass: but here is our comfort:
II. We have time sufficient for all the purposes of salvation, if we are wise enough to make good use of it; and this takes away all just occasion of complaint.
We may want time for our pleasures; we may want time for our vices; but we shall not want time to work out our salvation, provided we spend not our time for that which will not profit us. For the same just God, who has made our age as it were a span long, has made our duty possible to be performed within that short space: and even where we want time to do what his mercy is pleased to allow of, there his goodness often accepts of the will for the deed.
Our happiness in the next world is not to be measured by the time we spend in this. Many go to heaven out of the arms of the mother; many are delivered out of the snares of a sinful world, even as soon as they are come into the danger; many are taken away in the midst of their days to practise the graces in heaven which they had begun on earth; and it may be, they are the fewest in number who leave this world in a good old age to take possession of the blessings of the next life.
In short; the ways of God are unsearchable, and the reasons of his providence past finding out. This only we know, That our happiness is owing to his mere mercy in his Son Jesus
Christ, which accepts of our obedience; and, where that is wanting, of our sincere repentance. If he prolongs our days, it is because he expects we should make use of our time to his honour and our own greater good: if he takes us away in the beginning of our days, it is because he has allowed us time sufficient for the work appointed us, that we may more devoutly adore the greatness of that mercy, which rewards his creatures according to his own great goodness, not according to their deservings.
Thus all ages of men taste the goodness of the Lord; all ages are capable of his mercy; and if there are many who come short of eternal happiness, it is not for want of time to do their duty, but for want of a will to perform it: either they are in love with wickedness, and will not leave it for the hopes of heaven; or they purpose to repent some time or other, and continue thus to purpose, and repent not, till death calls them unawares to judgment; or they have deceived themselves, and have depended upon such righteousness as God will not accept of.
For these, and such reasons as these, men may be shut out of the kingdom of heaven, but not for want of time sufficient in which to work out their salvation.
Our blessed Saviour has discovered to us a new and living way by which we may be reconciled unto God, and prepared for heaven. It is he who has made known to us, that there is joy in heaven for repenting sinners; that charity will cover a multitude of sins; that hearty repentance, and true faith, are sometimes
accepted, instead of a long obedience; that a sinful prodigal, returning to his duty, has been received into favour, and treated as one who had never offended.
Now these are comfortable truths indeed. Truths they are that may be depended upon; and they are written for our admonition, that men may at all times be encouraged to come unto God by Jesus Christ; that all who are weary and heavy laden with the burthen of their sins, may know where to find rest; and lastly, that none may perish but by their own wilful negligence: for, notwithstanding the goodness of God in accepting of our repentance, many there are that perish; amongst these, the greatest number, it is probable, are of such as put off their repentance from time to time, till at last they were prevented by death from bringing forth fruits meet for repentance.
This is, no doubt of it, the ruin of many souls. To prevent which mischief, there is another circumstance of our life fit to be considered; namely,
III. That the end of our days is unknown to us, and uncertain.
It is true, our lives are in God's hands; nothing can befal us without his permission. But since the time when he will call us out of the world is altogether, as to us, uncertain; it is highly reasonable we should be prepared for God's good time, which, though it may not perhaps be the best for us, if we are not prepared for heaven, yet it will ever be the fittest to ma
nifest the glory of God, and his justice upon those who are deaf to all the methods of his mercy.
He has not made known to us the day of our death, That we, not knowing when he will call for us, may be ever prepared for his coming; that we may, all our life long, live like men who know and believe that there is another world after this; that this life is only in order to fit us for a much better; and that if we neglect the opportunity of making our peace with God while we are here, or defer the doing so till we are surprised by sickness and death, we do lose the only opportunity of securing our eternal welfare, and consequently are undone for ever.
In short; we know not when we shall die, whether this year or the next; but this we know, and ought to think seriously of it, that the only way to make the uncertainty of our life comfortable to us is this:-To consider that the year we are entering upon may be the last we have to live in this world; and since it may be so, to resolve, by God's grace, so to husband this short time, as that we may ourselves have comfortable thoughts of another life, and that those who are left behind may not have reason to grieve as men without hope.
To make this consideration of more use to us, pray let us remember, that all the time of our lives which is already past, and not spent in doing our duty, is utterly lost to us. And this must needs be an astonishing thought to a man who has spent the greatest part of his life in vanity. Remember thy Creator in the days of thy youth, is a most wholesome admonition;
for he that spends his youth in idleness or vice, has no more younger years to spend in virtue and piety. He that has never thought of the good of his soul, till a few days before he comes to die, has but a few days in which to make his salvation sure.
We, whose duty it is to visit men in their last hours, can say, by experience, under what agonies men labour, who have not thought of these things until they have been ready to give up their accounts.
Well then; one of these two conditions every one of us will be in when we come to die,(unless we die suddenly,)-We shall either bewail our misspent days, and with great sorrow wish we had never been born; or we shall with comfort look back upon the time we have lived in the fear of God, and in the obedience to his laws. Pray then let us consider, which of these conditions is fittest to be chosen by people that are in their perfect minds and senses: and because every day, every year, that we misspend, is for ever lost to us, let us not choose to spend one year after another in doing nothing of that business for which we had our lives given and continued to us. Especially since, in the last place,
IV. Our eternal welfare depends upon this uncertain life. And this is a thought that should make one very serious indeed.
If a man has made a foolish bargain, time and good husbandry, advice of friends, or experience, may set ail strait again, and the injury may be repaired. If a man has through ill husbandry