Page images

was to-day in poverty, had assurance that he would awake to-morrow a prince, would they be afraid to go to bed? Or rather would they not think it the longest day of their lives, till the desired night and morning came? The truth is, though there is much faith and Christianity in our mouths, yet there is much infidelity in our hearts, which is the main cause that we are so loath to die.

II. The coldness of our love is discovered by our unwillingness to die. Love desires the nearest conjunction, the fullest fruition, and closest communion. Where these desires are absent, there is only a naked pretence of love. He that ever felt such a thing as love working in his breast, has also felt these desires attending it. If we love our friend, we love his company; when he leaves us, we desire his return; when he comes to us, we welcome his appearance; when he dies, we mourn his loss; and if we really loved God, would not our desires after him be equally ardent? Nay, should they not be much more ardent, since he is above all friends most lovely? Let us take heed of self-deceit in this point; for certainly, whatever we pretend, if we love father or mother, husband or wife, child or friend, wealth or life more than Christ, we are none of his disciples! When it comes to the trial, the question will not be, Who has preached most, or heard most, or talked most, but who has loved most? And do we love him, and yet care not how long we are absent from him? I dare not conclude, that we have no love at all when we are so loath to die; but I will say, were our love more, we would die more willingly. Yea, I dare say, did we love God but as strongly as a worldling loves his wealth, or as an ambitious man his honour, or as a voluptuous man his pleasures, we would not be so exceedingly loath to leave the world, and go to God. O, if this holy flame of love were thoroughly kindled in our breasts, instead of our depressing fears, our mournful complaints, and our earnest prayers against death, we would join in David's lamentation in the wilderness, "As the hart panteth after the water-brooks, so panteth my soul

after thee, O God: My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God: When shall I come and appear before God?"

III. It shows we are not weary of sinning, when we are so unwilling to be freed from it by dying. Did we consider sin as the greatest evil, we would not be willing to have its company so long. Did we look on sin as our worst enemy, and on a sinful life as the most miserable life, surely we would be more ready for a change. But O, how far are our hearts from our doctrinal profession, in this point also! We preach, and write, and talk against sin, and yet when we are called to leave it, we are loath to depart. We brand it with the most odious names, but when the approach of death puts us to the trial, we choose a continuance with these abominations, before the presence and fruition of God. As Memnon smote his soldier for railing against Alexander, his enemy, saying, "I hired thee to fight against him, not to rail against him;" so may God smite us when he hears our tongues reviling that sin which we resist so slothfully, and part with so unwillingly.

IV. It shows we are insensible of the vanity of the creature, when we are so loath to hear or think of a removal. We call the world our enemy, and groan under our sore bondage; but either we speak not as we think, or else we imagine some singular happiness in the possession of worldly things, for which all this should be endured. Is any man loath to leave his prison, or to remove his dwelling from his cruel enemies, or to escape the hands of murderous robbers? Do we, indeed, take the world for our prison, and yet are we loath to leave it? Do we take this flesh as a veil that is drawn between us and God, and yet are we loath to lay it down? Does the sailor long to see the land, and the traveller to reach his home, and the soldier to win the field, and art thou loath to see thy labours finished, and to receive the heavenly inheritance? O unworthy soul! which had rather dwell in this land of darkness, and wander in this barren wil

derness, than dwell in heaven, the land of light, and peace, and joy.

V. It shows the hypocrisy of our hearts when we are so loath to die. We profess that there awaits us 66 a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory." We call God our chief good, and say, we love him above all things, and yet notwithstanding this, we fly from him. Would you have any man believe you, when you call the Lord your only hope, and talk of the joy that is in his presence, and yet would endure the hardest life rather than die and go into his presence? What self-contradiction is this, to talk so hardly of the world and flesh, to groan and complain of sin and suffering, and yet to fear no day more than that which we expect will bring our final freedom!

VI. Consider how we wrong the Lord and his promises, and disgrace his ways in the eyes of the world, as if we would persuade them to question, whether God be true to his word or not, and whether there be any such glory as the Scripture promises, when they see those who profess to live by faith, so loath to leave their hold of present things. How does it make the weak stagger, and confirm the world in their unbelief and sensuality! O how are we ever able to repair the wrong which we do to God and poor souls by this inconsistency!

Lastly, it shows that we have been careless loiterers, and have spent much time to little purpose, when we are still so loath to die. Have we not had all our lifetime to prepare to die? And are we still so unready, and so unwilling? Would we have wished more frequent warnings? How often has death entered the habitations of our neighbours! How often has it knocked at our own doors! How many distempers have seized our own bodies, so that we have been forced to receive the sentence of death in ourselves; and what were all these but so many messengers sent from God to tell us we must shortly die, as if we had heard a voice speaking to us, " Delay no more, but make you ready." And are we, after all this unprepared and unwilling still?


Reasons why we should be willing to die.

Secondly, Having set before you the heinous aggravations of this sin, I will now proceed to state some further considerations which may make you willing to die.

I. Consider that not to die were never to be happy. To escape death, were to lose our blessedness. If our hope in Christ were in this life only, we were of all men most miserable. Why do we pray, and fast, and mourn, why do we suffer the scorn and contempt of the world, if it be not for our hopes and desires of the life to come? What! Christian, wouldst thou lose thy faith, and lose thy labour in all thy duties, and all thy sufferings, and be contented with the portion of a worldling? If thou say no to this, how canst thou then be loath to die? Good old Milius, when dying, being asked whether he was willing to die, replied, "Let him be loath to die, who is loath to be with Christ."

II. Is God willing by death to glorify us; and are we unwilling to die that we may be glorified? Would God freely give us heaven, and are we unwilling to receive it? Surely to refuse such kindness, would discover great ingratitude and unworthiness. As God resolved against them who made excuses when they should have come to Christ, "Verily none of these that were bidden shall taste of my supper;" so would it be just in him to resolve against us, who frame excuses when we should come to glory.

III. Was the Lord Jesus willing to come from heaven to earth for us, and shall we be unwilling to remove from earth to heaven for ourselves and him? Surely if we had been once possessed of heaven, and God should propose to send us to earth again, as he did his Son for our sakes, we would then be loath to

remove indeed. It was a great change to which Christ freely submitted, clothing himself with the garments of flesh, taking upon him the form of a servant, coming from the bosom of the Father, and bearing his wrath which we should have borne. Shall he come down from the height of glory to the depth of misery, to bring us up to his eternal rest, and shall we after all this be unwilling to die? Has he bought our rest at so dear a rate? Is our inheritance purchased with his blood? And are we, after all this, loath to enter upon its enjoyment?

IV. Do we not combine with our most malicious enemies, while we are loath to die and go to heaven? What is the design of Satan's temptations? Is it not to keep our souls from God? And shall we be well content with this, and join with Satan in his desires? V. Do not our daily fears of death, make our lives a continual torment? The fear of death, as Erasmus says, is a sorer evil than death itself. These lives which might be full of joys in the daily contemplation of the life to come, and the delightful thoughts of eternal bliss, we fill up with terrors, through these causeless fears and apprehensions. Thus we consume our own comforts, and prey upon our purest pleasures. When we might lie down, and rise up, and walk abroad with our hearts full of heavenly joys, we continually fill them with perplexing fears; for he that fears dying, must be always fearing, because he has always cause to expect it. And how can that man's life be comfortable, who lives in continual dread of losing his comforts?

VI. Moreover, all these are self-created sufferings; as if God had not inflicted enough upon us, but we must inflict more upon ourselves! Is not death, of itself, bitter enough to the flesh, but we must multiply its bitterness? Do we complain so much of the burden of our troubles, and yet daily add to the weight? Surely the state of poor mortals is sufficiently calamitous; they need not make it so much worse. The sufferings laid upon us by God, all lead to happy issues; the progress is from suffering to patience, from

« PreviousContinue »