« EdellinenJatka »
example of patience." Let that amiable grave have its perfect work* ; and since it has so little more to do, let it close the scene nobly. Let there not be a murmuring word; and that there may not, watch against every repining thought: and when you feel any thing of that kind arising, look by faith upon a dying Saviour, and ask your own heart, "Was not his cross much more painful, than the bed on which I lie? Was not his situation among blood-thirsty enemies infinitely more terrible, than mine amidst the tenderness and care of so many affectionate friends? Did not the heavy load of my sins press him in a much more overwhelming manner, than I am pressed by the load of these afflictions? and yet he bore all as a lamb that is brought to the slaughtert. Let the remembrance of his sufferings be a means to sweeten yours; yea, let it cause you to rejoice, when you are called to bear the cross for a little while, before you wear the crown. Count it all joy, that you have an opportunity yet once more of honouring God by your patience, which is now acting its last part, and will in a few days, perhaps in a few hours, be superseded by complete everlasting blessedness. And I am willing to hope, that in these views you will not only suppress all passionate complaints, but that your mouth will be filled with the praises of God; and that you will be speaking to those that are about you, not only of his justice, but of his goodness too. So that you will be enabled to communicate your inward joy in such a manner as may be a lively and edifying comment upon those words of the apostle, Tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope; even a hope which maketh not ashamed, while the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts, by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us‡.
9. 7. And now, my dear friend, "now is the time, when it is especially expected from you, that you bear an honourable testimony to religion." Tell those that are about you, as well as you can, (for you will never be able fully to express it,) what comfort and support you have found in it. Tell them how it has brightened the darkest circumstances of your life: tell them, how it now reconciles you to the near views of death. Your words will carry with them a peculiar weight at such a season: there will be a kind of eloquence, even in the infirmities with which you are struggling, while you give them utterance; and you will be heard with attention, with tenderness, with credit. And therefore, when the time of your departure is at
Rom. v. 3, 4, 5.
* Jam. i. 4.
+ Isai. liii. 7.
"In the mean time, O my divine Master, accept the homage which a grateful heart now pays thee, in a sense of the glorious hopes with which thou hast inspired it! It is thou that hast put this joy into it, and hast raised my soul to this glorious ambition; whereas I might otherwise have now been groveling in the lowest trifles of time and sense, and been looking with horror on that hour, which is now the object of my most ardent wishes. "Oh be with me always even to the end of this mortal life! and give me, while waiting for thy salvation, to be doing thy commandments! May my loins be girded about, and my lamp burning *; and mine ears be still watchful for the blessed signal of thine arrival: that my glowing soul may with pleasure spring to meet thee, and be strengthened by death to bear those visions of glory, under the ecstacies of which feeble mortality would now expire!"
The Christian honouring God by his dying Behaviour. Reflections on the Sincerity with which the preceding Advices have been given, §. 1. The Author is desirous, that (if Providence permit) he may assist the Christian to die honourably and comfortably, §. 2, 3. With this View it is advised, (1.) To rid the Mind of all earthly Cares, §. 4. (2.) To renew the Humiliation of the Soul before God, and its Application to the Blood of Christ, §. 5. (3.) To exercise Patience under bodily Pains and Sorrows, §. 6. (4.) At leaving the World, to bear an honourable Testimony to Religion, §. 7. (5.) To give a solemn Charge to surviving Friends, §. 8. especially recommending Faith in Christ, §. 9. (6.) To keep the Promises of God in View, §. 10, 11. And (7.) To commit the departing Spirit to God in the genuine Exercises of Gratitude and Repentance, Faith and Charity; §. 12. which are exemplified in the concluding Meditation and Prayer.
§. 1. THUS, my dear reader, I have endeavoured to lead you
through a variety of circumstances; and those not fancied or imaginary, but such as do indeed occur in the human and christian life. And I can truly and cheerfully say, that I have marked out to you the path which I myself have trod, and in which it is my desire still to go on. I have ventured my own everlasting interests on that foundation, on which I have directed you to adventure yours. What I have recommended as the grand business of your life, I desire to make the business of my own:
*Luke xii. 35.
and the most considerable enjoyments, which I expect or desire in the remaining days of my pilgrimage on earth, are such as I have directed you to seek, and endeavoured to assist you in attaining. Such love to God, such constant activity in his service, such pleasurable views of what lies beyond the grave, appear to me, (God is my witness,) a felicity incomparably beyond any thing else which can offer itself to our affection and pursuit: and I would not for ten thousand worlds,' resign my share in them, or consent even to the suspension of the delights which they afford, during the remainder of my abode here.
§. 2. I would humbly hope, through the divine blessing, that the hours you have spent in the review of these plain things, may have turned to some profitable account; and that in consequence of what you have read, you have been either brought into the way of life and peace, or been induced to quicken your pace in it. Most heartily should I rejoice in being further useful to you, and that even to the last. Now there is one scene remaining; a scene, through which you must infallibly pass; which has something in it so awful, that I cannot but attempt doing a little to assist you in it: I mean the dark valley of the shadow of death, I could earnestly wish, that for the credit of your profession, the comfort of your own soul, and the joy and edification of your surviving friends, you might die, not only safely, but honourably too: and therefore I would offer you a few parting advices. I am sensible indeed, that Providence may determine the circumstances of your death in such a manner, as that you may have no opportunity of acting upon the hints I now give you. Some unexpected accident from without, or from within, may, as it were, whirl you to Heaven before you are aware; and you may find yourself so suddenly there, that it may seem a translation, rather than a death. Or it is possible the force of a distemper may affect your understanding in such a manner, that you may be quite insensible of the circumstances in which you are; and so your dissolution (though others may see it visibly and certainly approaching,) may be as great a surprise to you, as if you had died in full health.
§. 3. But as it is on the whole probable, you may have a more sensible passage out of time into eternity; and as much may, in various respects, depend on your dying behaviour; give me leave to propose some plain directions with relation to it, to be practised, if God give you opportunity, and remind you of them. It may not be improper to look over the xxixth chapter again, when you find the symptoms of any threatening
hand, with unaffected freedom breathe out your joy, if you then feel (as I hope you will,) an holy joy and delight in God. Breathe out however your inward peace and serenity of mind, if you be then peaceful and serene: others will mark it, and be encouraged to tread the steps which lead to so happy an end. Tell them what you feel of the vanity of the world; and they may learn to regard it less. Tell them what you feel of the substantial supports of the gospel; and they may learn to value it more: for they cannot but know, that they must lie down on a dying bed too, and must then need all the relief which the gospel itself can give them.
§. 8. And to enforce the conviction the more, " give a solemn charge to those that are about you, that they spend their lives in the service of God, and govern themselves by the principles of real religion. You may remember, that Joshua, and David, and other good men did so; when they perceived that the days drew near in which they should die. And you know not, how the admonitions of a dying friend, or (as it may be with respect to some,) of a dying parent, may impress those who have disregarded what you and others may have said to them before. At least, make the trial, and die labouring to glorify God to save souls, and generously to sow the seeds of goodnes and happiness in a world, where you have no more harvests to reap. Perhaps they may spring up in a plentiful crop, when the clods of the valley are covering your body: but if not, God will approve it; and the angels, that wait around your bed to receive your departing soul, will look upon each other with marks of approbation in their countenance, and own that this is to expire like a christian, and to make a glorious improvement of mortality.
§. 9. And in this last address to your fellow mortals, whoever they are that providence brings near you, "be sure that you tell them how entirely and how cheerfully your hopes and dependence on this season of the last extremity are fixed, not upon your own merits and obedience, but on what the great Redeemer has done and suffered for sinners." Let them see, that you die, as it were, at the foot of the cross: nothing will be so comfortable to yourselves, nothing so edifying to them. Let the name of Jesus, therefore, be in your mouth, while you are able to speak, and when you can speak no longer, let it be in your heart, and endeavour that the last act of your soul, while it continues in the body, may be an act of humble faith in Christ. Come unto God by him: enter into that which is within the veil, as with the blood of sprinkling afresh upon
you. It is an awful thing for such a sinner, (as you, my christian friend, with all the virtues the world may have admired, know yourself to be,) to stand before that infinitely pure and holy being, who has seen all your ways, and all your heart, and has a perfect knowledge of every mixture of imperfection which has attended the best of your duties: but venture in that way, and you will find it both safe and pleasant.
§. 10. Once more," to give you comfort in a dying hour, and to support your feeble steps while you are travelling through this dark and painful way, take the word of God as a staff in your hand." Let books and mortal friends, now do their last office for you. Call, if you can, some experienced christian, who has felt the power of the word of God upon his own heart; and let him bring the scripture, and turn you to some of those precious promises, which have been the food and rejoicing of his own soul. It is with this view that I may carry the good office I am now engaged in as far as possible, I shall here give you a collection of a few such admirable scriptures, each of them infinitely more valuable than thousands of gold and silver*. And to convince you of the degree in which I esteem them, I will take the freedom to add, that I desire they may (if God give an opportunity,) be read over to me, as I lie on my dying bed, with short intervals between them, that I may pause upon each, and renew something of that delightful relish, which, I bless God, I have often found in them. May your soul and mine be then composed to a sacred silence, (whatever be the commotion of animal nature,) while the voice of God speaks to us, in language which he spake to his servants of old, or in which he instructed them how they should speak to him in circumstances of the greatest extremity!
§. 11. Can any more encouragement be wanting, when he says, "Fear not, for I am with thee; be not dismayed, for I am thy God; I will strengthen thee, yea I will help thee, yea I will uphold thee, with the right-hand of my righteousness+." And "he is not a man that he should lie, or the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? Or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?"-" The Lord is my light, and my salvation, whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life, of whom shall I be afraid§?" "This God is our God for ever and ever he will be our guide even unto death||." Therefore, 66 though I walk through the valley of the shadow
Psal. cxix. 72. § Psal. xxvii. 1.
† Isai. xli. 10.
Numb. xxiii. 19.