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longer, and was afraid of outliving his usefulness. But when he spake of death, it was with great calmness and composure of mind and he declared, he was more afraid of the pain of dying, than of the consequences of death. However in that he was greatly favoured. For about a month before his death, he seemed more brisk and cheerful than he had been for some time: and his friends hoped they might have enjoyed him longer. But as he was walking a little way into the country, to see a friend, he had an unhappy fall, which bruised his leg. No danger was appre hended at first: but on the fourth day it threw him into a fever, the place mortified, and the mortification brought on a lethargy. All proper means were used, but in vain. When his friends roused him, he answered very sensibly: but soon fell into his dosing again, from which he never awaked. For on Wednesday morning, a little after nine of the clock, the fifth of this month, without either sigh or groan, or the least struggling, he in the most easy and composed manner breathed his last. An affectionate friend, who stood by his bed-side, tells: Though he never could bear 'to see any one die before, yet he saw nothing formidable, ' or to give him any uneasiness, except that he was losing 'his dear and faithful friend.'
Such has been the life, and such the death of our honoured friend. His life has been a course of laborious service in the church of God, and an example of uniform, steadfast, growing virtue; and his end has been peace. If we copy his example, and observe the rules of life, faithfully taught, and earnestly inculcated by him, we may hope to meet him again in a state of perfection and happiness. With these, and such like thoughts and considerations, let us comfort ourselves, and others, who sympathize with us, and mingle their tears with ours; being affected with the loss which both we and they have sustained.
4. Lastly, This subject is confirming and animating, as well as comforting.'
In our Father's house are many mansions. There are regions of light and immortality: there is a world, wherein dwells righteousness: where intelligent beings are admitted to the sublimest entertainments: where there is no death, nor pain, and where all sorrow and sighing are fled away. Forasmuch as such a joy is set before us, let us lay aside every weight, and perform the services now laying before us with fidelity and diligence.
We have had a new testimony to the truth of religion. Our deceased friend was "an Israelite indeed in whom
was no guile," John i. 47. Of his sincerity there were many undeniable proofs, and it was liable to no suspicions. He had as good reason, as any, to know, whether virtue has a real excellence, and whether it be recommended by religion, or be the will of God: whether it has any delights and comforts here, and may expect a reward hereafter. He has spoken and acted as if these things were true and certain; and, if they were not so, he would have told us.
Let us improve this thought for our establishment: let us reckon ourselves obliged to weigh maturely, and recollect frequently, what we have heard from him upon these important points, whether in public or private. Far be it, that any of the stated hearers, near relatives, or intimate friends of this excellent man, and faithful servant of God, should be so far misled by the temptations of the times, as ever to become infidels in opinion, or libertines in practice. I rather hope and believe, that remembering how he taught, and how he walked; and mindful of other helps, still afforded them; not forsaking the assemblies of divine worship, as is the manner of some; but by an open profession of religion animating and confirming each other; and joining with a love of liberty a hearty zeal for true piety, they will withstand the snares of an evil world, and maintain their integrity to the end of life and so be to him a crown of glory, and rejoice with him in the day of the Lord, Heb. x. 23-25.
Finally," my beloved brethren, let us be steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord: forasmuch as we know that our labour shall not be in vain in the Lord," 1 Cor. xv. 58.
SERMONS UPON VARIOUS SUBJECTS.
THE DUTY OF CONSIDERATION.
I thought on my ways, and turned my feet unto thy testimonies. Psal. cxix. 59.
IN these words two things are observable; first, the Psalmist's practice: "He thought on his ways." Secondly, the result and consequence of that practice: "He turned his feet unto God's testimonies."
The text therefore presents to us these two points, consideration, and the happy effect of it; reformation, or amendment. These will be the subjects of the present discourse: and this is the method to be observed by us:
I. To show what is implied in consideration, or thinking on our ways.
II. To observe the proper effect thereof, which is amend
III. After which, in the way of application, I would recommend the practice of consideration by some motives.
I. I am to show in the first place, what is implied in consideration, or thinking on our ways.
1. It implies a recollecting, and taking a survey of our past conduct, with a view of detecting the sins and errors of it, as well as observing the good we have done.
To think on our ways is to recollect and bring to remembrance the past actions of our life, good and bad: more especially our latter, but also our former conduct: nor only our outward actions, but likewise our thoughts and intentions, the principles and views of our actions, in the several past periods of our life, and the various circumstances we have been in: how far our behaviour has been suitable to the dispensations of Divine Providence towards us: what we have been, and what we have done: how we have behaved in times of prosperity, or of adversity: how far we have regarded and performed, or neglected and omitted, the duties owing to God or men, in the stations we have been in; by which it may appear, that this is a wide field of meditation to expatiate in.
2. In the practice of this duty is implied seriousness and deliberation.
"I thought on my ways." I recollected them, as just shown: and that seriously and deliberately. I did not bestow only some few slight and cursory reflections on myself and my past conduct: but I acted with seriousness and deliberation, being sensible, it is a thing of no small moment. I allotted some time to this work, and called off my thoughts from other matters, to think of myself and my ways. I laid aside other business, and redeemed some time from the hurries of life, for the sake of this necessary review. I desisted from farther pursuits until I had surveyed my past conduct, and could judge how far it has been right, or how far wrong: whether I ought to proceed in the present course, or whether it ought not in several respects to be altered and corrected.
3. "I thought on my ways:" I considered and examined them impartially.
This I did, knowing that God sees all things, and that he is acquainted with all my wanderings. He tries the hearts, and knows all the ways of the sons of men. He is the best judge of integrity, and will approve of it: he is not to be deceived by false pretences, and specious appearances. All the actions of my life, and all the purposes of my heart, ever since I have enjoyed this rational nature, and have arrived to the exercise of its powers, have been under his notice: and he discerns the present frame and actings of my mind.
When therefore I thought on my ways, I resolved to do it in the fear, and as in the presence of God. I set aside partial and too favourable regards for myself, and resolved not to heed now the fair, and too agreeable speeches of friends or flatterers: but to know the truth concerning myself, and to pass a right judgment upon my ways.
I examined myself, then, and weighed my actions in an equal balance, without a favourable and partial indulgence: but yet, as I was persuaded I ought to do, without a rigour and severity that has no bounds, and directly and necessarily leads to despair and despondency: believing, that equity, mercy, and compassion, are branches of eternal righteousness, and some of the glories of that infinitely perfect Being who made the world. He certainly is not strict to mark iniquity: he knows all the weaknesses and disadvantages of his creatures, as well as the powers and advantages he has bestowed upon them. He does not equally resent involuntary and undesigned failings, and deliberate and wilful wickedness. He is ever ready to pardon the penitent, and accepts the sincere and upright, though they are not perfect.
Ås therefore I would confess and acknowledge all the offences I can descry, with hopes of finding favour with God; so would I humbly rejoice, and take satisfaction in every instance of virtuous conduct, hoping it may be graciously approved of and accepted by him to whom I am accountable; and who is greater than my heart, and knoweth all things.
4. "I thought on my ways." It may be herein implied, I have done it frequently.
"I thought on my ways:" This is a practice, which I have supposed to be incumbent on me. The heat of action, and the hurry and business of life, occasion much inconsideration and various circumstances there are which throw
us off our guard: and temptations prevail before we are
Various are the temptations of this world: and my strong affections are apt to carry me beyond the bounds of reason. In the multitude of my words, in my many thoughts and actions, I fear there has not wanted some, if not much sin and folly. I have therefore thought it, in the course of my life, a fit and proper practice, frequently to review my conduct, and call myself to an account, and not to suffer any long space of time to pass without this exercise of my
5. "I thought on my ways:" and when I did so, I carefully compared them with the rule of right; the reason of things, and the revealed will of God.
As already observed, I have recollected my past conduct; I have reviewed it seriously and deliberately; sincerely and impartially; and frequently laying hold of all fit opportunities for so doing: and whenever I did so, it was my concern, carefully to compare my actions by the rule of right; the reason of things, and the will of God, as revealed in his word.
I then observed the intrinsic excellence, and the beauty and comeliness of virtue, and all holiness; and the real evil and foul deformity of vice. I discerned the reasonableness and perfection of God's precepts: that what he commands is fit to be done, and that what he forbids ought to be avoided by every rational being: "All the statutes of the Lord are right," Psal. xix. 8, and should be steadily regarded by his creatures. I perceived therefore, that all my thoughts and actions, which agreed not with the rule of God's word, were foolish and wicked, such as ought to be condemned by me, of which I have reason to be ashamed, and for which I now humble and abase myself. All such actions have been contrary to the will and pleasure of my sovereign, and unsuitable to the dignity of my nature. And all the while I have wandered from the right way of holiness and obedience to God, I have been weakening and sinking the powers of my mind, and have more and more indisposed myself for the enjoyment of true happiness.
6. "I thought on my ways:" and when I did so, I considered the several advantages I have enjoyed, and the peculiar obligations I have been under; and was thereby led to take notice of the many aggravations of my transgressions, and my defects.
Every thing contrary to truth, purity, and righteousness,