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imagine the wicked might have some hope in their death; if, after death has opened their eyes, they could return to life, and have but the trial of one Sabbath, one offer of Christ, one day, or but one hour more, to make up their peace with God: “ But, man lieth down, and riseth not till the heavens be no more ; they shall not awake, nor be raised out of their sleep,” Job xiv. 12. Lastly, In the other world, men have no access to get their ruined stite and condition retrieved, if they never so fain would : « For there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom in the grave, whither thou goest,” Eccles. ix. 10. Now, a man may flee from the wrath to come; now, he may get into a refuge ; but when once death has done its. work, the door is shut; there are no more offers of mercy, no more pardons ; where the tree is fallen, there it must lie.
Let what has been said be carefully pondered: Andy that it may be of use, let me exhort you,
First, To take heed that ye entertain no hopes of heaven, but what are built on a solid foundation. Tremble to think what fair hopes of happiness death sweeps away, like' cobwebs! How the hopes of many are cut off, when they seem to themselves to be on the very threshold of heaven! How, in the moment they expect to be carried by angels into Abraham's bosom, into ile regions of bliss. and peace, they are carried by devils, into the society of the damned in hell ; into the place of torment, and regions of horror! I beseech you to beware, (1.) Of a hope built up, where the ground was never cleared. The wise builder digged deep; Luke vi. 48. Were your hopes of heaven never shaken ; but ye have had good hopes all your days ? Alas for it! you may see the mystery
your case explained, Luke xi. 21. " When a strong mang armed, keepeth his palace, his goods are in peace. But if they have been shaken, take heed lest there have only some branches been made in the old building, which you have got repaired again, by ways and means of your own. I assure you, your hope (howsoever fair a building it is) is not to trust to; unless your old hopes have been razed, and you have built on a foundation quite new. (2.) BeWare of that hope, which looks brisk in the dark'; but looseth all its lustre, when it is set in the light of God's
word; when it is examined and tried by the touchstone of divine revelation, John iii. 20, 21.
« For every one that doth evil, hateth the light ; neither cometh to the light, least his deeds should be reproved. But he that doth the truth, cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God." That hope, which cannot abide scripture-trial, but sinks, when searched into by sacred truth, is a delusion, and not a true hope ; for God's word is always a friend to the graces of God's Spirit, and an enemy to delusion. (3.) Beware of that hope, which stands without being supported by scripture-evidences. Alas! many are big with hopes, who cannot give, because they really have not, any scripture-grounds for them. Thou hopest, that all shall be well with thee, after death ; but what word of God is it; on which thou hast been caused to hope ? Psalm cxix. 49. What scripture-evidence hast thou, to prove that thy hope is not the hope of the hypocrite? What hast thou, after impartial self-examination, as in the sight of God, found in thyself, which the word of God determines to be a sure evidence of his right to eternal life, who is possessed of it? Numbers of men are ruined with such hopes, as stand unsupported by scripture evidence. Men are fond and tena. cious of these hopes; but death will throw them down, and leave the self-deceiver hopeless. Lastly, Beware of that hope of heaven, which doth not prepare and dispose you for heaven, which never makes your soul more holy, 1 John iii. 3. “ Every man that hath this hope in him, purifieth himself, even as he is pure.” The hope of the most part of men is rather a hope to be free of pain and torment in another life, than a hope of true happiness, the nature whereof is not understood and discerned; and, therefore, it stakes down in sloth and indolence, and does not excite to mortification and a heavenly life. So far are they from hoping aright for heaven, that they must own, if they speak their genuine sentiments, removing out of this world into any other place whatsoever, is rather their fear than their hope. The glory of the heavenly city does not at all draw their hearts upwards towards it; por do they lift up their heads with joy, in the prospect arriving at it. If they had the true hope of the marriageelay, they would, as the bride, the Lamb's wife, be making
themselves ready for it, Rev. xix. 7. But their hopes are produced by their sloth, and their sloth is nourished by their hopes. Oh! Sirs, as ye would not be driven away hopeless
in your death, beware of these hopes. Raze them now, and build on a new foundation ; lest death leave not one stone of them upon another, and ye never be able to hope any more.
Secondly, Hasten, O sinners, out of your wickedness, out of your sinful state, "and out of your wicked life ; if ye would not, at death, be driven away in your wickedness. Remember the fatal end of the wicked man, as the text represents it. I know there is a great difference in the death of the wicked, in respect of some circumstances; but all of them, in their death, agree in this, that they are driven away in their wickedness. Some of them die resolutely, as if they scorned to be afraid. Some in raging despair ; so filled with horror, that they cry out, as if they were already in hell; others in sullen despondency, oppressed with fears; insomuch, that their hearts are sunk within them, upon the remembrance of misspent time, and the view they have of eternity; having neither head nor heart to do any thing for their own relief. And others die stupid ; they lived like beasts, and they die like beasts; without any concern on their spirits, about their eternal state. They groan, under their bodily distress, but have no sense of the danger of their souls. One may, with almost as much prospect of success, speak to a stone, as speak to them: Vain is the attempt to teach them ; nothing that can be said moves them. To discourse to them, either of the joys of heaven, or the torments of hell, is to plow on a rock, or beat the air. Some die like the foolish virgins, dreaming of heaven; their foreheads are steeled against the fears of hell, with presumptuous hopes of heaven. Their business, who would be useful to them, is not to answer doubts about the case of their souls; but to dispute them out of their false hopes. But which way soever the unconverted man dies, he is driven away in his wickedness. O dreadful case ! Oh, let the consideration of so horrible a departure out of this world, move you to betake yourselves to Jesus Christ, as an all-sufficient Saviour, an Almighty Redeemer. Let it prevail to drive you out of your wickedness, to holiness of heart and life. Though you reckon it pleasant to live in wickedness; you cannot but own it is bitter to die in it. And if you leave it not in time, you shall go in your wickedness to hell, the proper place of it, that it may be set there on its own base. For when you are passing out of this world, all your sins from the eldest to the youngest of them, will swarm about you, hang upon you, accompany you to the other world, and, as so many furies, surround you there for ever.
Lastly, O be concerned for others, especially for your relations, that they may not continue in their sinful natural state, but be brought into a state of salvation ; lest they be driven away in their wickedness at death. What would ye not do, to prevent any of your friends. dying an untimely and violent death? But, alas! do not ye see them in hazard of being driven away in their wickedness? Is not death approaching them, even the youngest of them? And are they not strangers to true Christianity, remaining in that state in which they came into the world? Oh! make haste to pluck the brand out of the fire, before it be burnt to ashes. The death of relations often leaves a sting in the hearts of these they leave behind them; for that they do not do for their souls, as they had opportunity : and that now the opportunity is for ever taken out of their hands.
We have seen the dark side of the cloud looking towards ungodly men, passing out of the world ; let us now take a view of the bright side of it, shining on the godly, as they are entering upon their eternal state. In discoursing this subject, I shall confirm this doctrine, answer an objection against it, and then make some practical improvement of the whole.
For Confirmation, let it be observed, That although the passage out of this world by death have a frightful aspect to poor mortals, and to miscarry in it must needs be of fatal consequence, yet the following circumstances make the state of the godly in their death happy and hopeful.
First, They have a trusty good friend before them in
the other world; Jesus Christ, their best friend, is Lord of that land to which death carries them. When Joseph sent for his father to come down to Egypt, telling him, God had made him Lord over all Egypt—and when Jacob saw the waggons Joseph had sent to carry him, the spirit of Jacob revived, Gen. xlv. 9. 27. he frankly resolves to undertake the journey. I think, when the Lord calls a godly man out of this world, he sends him such glad tidings, and such a kind invitation into the other world, that if he had faith to believe it, his spirit must revive, when he sees the waggon of death, which comes to carry him thither. It is true indeed, he has a weighty trial to undergo; After death the judgment. But the case of the godly is altogether hopeful; for the Lord of the land is their husband, and their husband is their judge; “ The Father hath committed ali judgment unto the Son,” John v. 22. And surely the case of the wife is hopeful, when her own husband is her judge; even such a husband as hates putting away. Nolusband is so loving and sotender of his spouse, as the Lord Christ is of his. One would think, it would be a very bad land, which a wife would not willingly go to, where her husband is the ruler and judge. Moreover, their Judge is the Advocate, 1 John ii. 1. « We have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. And, therefore, they need not fear their being put back, and failing into condemnation. What can be more favourable ? Can they think, that he who pleads their cause will himself pass sentence against them? Yet further, their Advocate is the Redeemer; they are redeemed with the precious blood of Christ, í Pet. i. 18, 19. So when he pleads for them, he is pleading his own cause. Though an advocate may be careless of the interest of one who employs him, surely he will do his utmost to defend his own right, which he hath purchased with his money; and shall not their Advocate defend the purchase of his own blood ? But more than all that, their Redeemer is their head, and they are his members, Eph. v. 23, 30. Though one were so silly as to let his own purchase go, without standing up to defend his right, yet surely he will not quit a limb of his own body. Is not their case then hopeful in death, who are so closely linked and allied to the Lord of the other world, who hath the keys of hell
and death? Secondly, They shall have a safe passage to another world.