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heart of man, as we find by sad experience, did not render this very consideration of little use, by inventing ways to delude themselves, without scripture and without reason.
I shall not now insist upon the delusion of those who take no care how they spend their time, depending upon the prayers of those they leave behind them, as if God had given them any warrant in his word to do so; or as if those they leave behind them would be more concerned for their souls than they themselves were, when they were alive. Neither shall I do any more than take notice of the delusion of such as depend upon the goodness of God, without considering, that God is just as well as good; and having expressly declared, that he will judge men according to the works done in the body, whether they have been good or evil; he will most certainly do so, though foolish men should fancy that he will not be severe with them, notwithstanding their provocations. He has shewed the world that he can be severe, when sinners go on to provoke him, by destroying not only particular persons, but families, cities, countries, and the whole world, for their wickedness.
But that which I would more particularly insist upon is, the delusion of depending upon a deathbed repentance; when men defer that, which should be the work of their whole life, to the very last moments of it, to the evening, when no man can work. A delusion so common, that one cannot be too earnest with Christians to beware of it, lest it happen to them as it did
unto Esau,* who found no place for repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears.
Christians therefore should be very often put in mind. that the terms of salvation are already fixed, which are, that without holiness no man shall see the Lord. That when men repent, they should turn to God, and bring forth fruits meet for repentance. A very dreadful consideration to such as have put off their amendment till it be too late to be done!
To which, if we add such considerations as these:-That the condition of such as defer their repentance grows every day more and more desperate. That the judgment of the unfruitful tree, cut it down, why cumbereth it the ground? may be passed upon a sinner, when he least thinks of it. That the merciful invitation, Seek ye the Lord while he may be found,† supposes, that there is a time when he will not be found of them that seek him; that he who being often reproved, yet hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy. That the state of sinners may be so provoking, that though Noah, Daniel, and Job, should intercede for them, yet God will not hearken to their prayers.
Whoever considers these things, and that God has made our time short, and our death uncertain, on purpose that we may begin betimes to consider of our latter end, and be always prepared for our Lord's coming; that death is ever at hand, and the consequence of a surprise most dreadful. A Christian cannot
Heb. zil 17.
Isaiah iv. 6.
think of these things with any degree of seriousness, but he must see a necessity either of being prepared for death whenever God shall call him, or of being undone for ever-which cannot be thought on without astonishment.
Well, then; what a wise man when he comes to die would wish that he had done, that he ought to do forthwith; since in the midst of life we are in death; since the day wears away apace, and since eternity depends upon our making use of our time.
I will therefore tell you, what every man in his senses will wish he had done when the night comes; that is, when he comes to die: he will wish, for instance,
1st. That he had made a just and christian settlement of his temporal concerns, that he might not be distracted with the cares of this world, when all his thoughts and hopes should be upon another.
2dly. That he had made his peace with God by a timely repentance.
3dly. That he had faithfully done his duty in the state of life in which the providence of God had placed him.
4thly. That he had, in some good measure, weaned his affections from things temporal, and had loosened the ties which fasten us to the world.
5thly. He will wish, moreover, That by acts of mercy and charity he had entitled himself to the mercy of God, which, at the hour of death, and at the day of judgment, he will stand in need of.
6thly. That he had got such habits of patience and resignation during his health, that might render death less frightful.
thly, and lastly, He will wish, that by a constant practice of devotion, preparatory for death, he had learned what to pray for, what to hope for, and what to depend upon, in his last sickness.
This is what every man will wish that he had done, when he comes to die; that when the night cometh, he may have no more work to do, than to resign his soul into the hands of God, in hopes of a blessed resurrection.
I will just shew you the reasonableness, and the necessity, of having all these works done before the night comes, when no man can do them as he ought to do.
And first, for what concerns the settlement of a man's temporal affairs. If we consider the duties of one who is going to make his last will; that he is to take care for the payment of all his just debts; that he is to make restitution, if he has wronged any body; that his charities ought to be useful, and as large in proportion as the favours he has received; that he is to do no wrong, shew no resentment, leave nothing undone which may as much as possible prevent misunderstandings, quarrels, and law-suits, amongst executors.
Whoever, I say, would faithfully discharge all these engagements, must not fancy, that these things are to be done in a hurry, when the night is come, and a man wants time to consider, friends to advise, and power to recollect his distracted thoughts.
.. And if so much time be necessary to settle a man's temporal concerns; much more is necessary to settle his spiritual-to make his peace with God by a sincere repentance; which every man when he comes to die will wish with all his soul he had done while he was in health, and could redeem his misspent time, and bring forth fruits meet for repentance,-which is the only sure sign of a true conversion.
In short; a Christian's whole life ought to be a state of repentance. He ought to see and bewail the corruption of his nature, which makes him backward to please God, ready to offend him, fond of the pleasures of this life, and unthoughtful of that which is to come. He ought to call himself to an account daily, and see whether he gets the mastery of his corruptions, and whether he does not often fall into the sins he has repented of. He ought to have some good assurance that he grows in grace, and that he is in some good measure restored to the image of God, in which he was at first created.
This, I say again, ought to be the work of a man's whole life; and he that leaves it to the last moments of his life, must not expect the comforts of a happy death.
All Christians are most highly concerned to lay these things to heart. They should imitate the wise builder, who sat down and counted the cost, whether he was able, and whether he was resolved, to go through the work. So should every man seriously consider what it is he undertakes, when he promises to be a Christian; namely, that he will no longer be the devil's