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demonftration of the real excellency of virtue; because no other fuppofition but that of religion does so clearly solve all appearances, and fo fully and exactly answer the natural desires, and hopes, and fears of mankind. If the being of God, and the obligations of religion and virtue be admitted, this gives an easy account of the whole matter, and shews us, that sin and vice are the foundation of guilt and trouble, and that religion and virtue do naturally produce peace and comfort: for that is to be efteemed and reckoned the natural effect of any thing, which doth generally belong to the whole kind. If those who live religiously and virtuously, have generally peace and comfort when they come to die, and those who live wickedly are commonly full of guilt and remorse, of fear and perplexity at that time; this is reason enough to believe, that these are the natural effects of those causes; and that men, when they come to die are, according as they have lived, afraid of the divine justice, and of the vengeance of another world, or con fident of God's goodness, and the rewards of another life, is a strong argunsent of a fuperior being that governs the world, and will reward men according to their works because no supposition but this doth answer the pateral hopes and fears of men. And this likewife is an argument of the immortality of our fouls, and of the rewards and punishments of another life; and as good a demode ftration of the reality and excellency of religion and virtue, from these happy effects of it, as the nature of the thing is capable of.
And now, to make some reflections upon what has beco faid upon this argument :
First, The confideration of the different ends of good and bad men is a mighty encouragement to piety and a good life. Nuching in this world faews us fo remark. able a difference between the righteous and the wicked, as a death-bed. Then a good man most sensibly enjoy! the comfort of a good life, and the peaceable fruits of righteoufness; and the finger then begins to reap the bitter fruits of lin. What a difference is there then, between the comfort and trouble, the composure and disturbance, the hopes and fears of these two perfons ? and text the actual possession of blesse Iness, the
comfortable hopes and expectation of it are the greatest happiness; and next to being plunged into it, the fearful apprehensions of eternak misery are the greatest torment. The wicked is driven away in his wickedness, is violently hurried out of the world, full of guilt and trouble. What storms and tempefts are then raised in his mind, from the fear of God's justice, and the despair of his mercy? But the righteous hath hope in his death. The reflection upon a holy and virtuous life, and the conscience of a man's uprightness and fincerity, are a spring of joy and peace to him, which refresheth his mind with unfpeakable comfort and pleasure, under the very pangs of death. With what triumph and exultation of spirit doth the blessed Apostle St Paul, upon the review of his labours and sufferings for God and his truth, fpeak of his dissolution ? 2 Tim. iv. 6, 7, 8. For I am now ready to be offered up, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me at that day. He speaks with such a lively sense of it, as if he had his crown in his, view, and were just ready to take hold of it. And what would not a man give, what would he not be contented to do and fuffer, to be thus affected when he comes to leave the world, and to be able to bear the thoughts of his death and dissolution with fo composed and chearful a mind? And yet this is the natural and genyine effect of a holy and useful life. And that, which the fame Apostle tells us was the ground of his rejoicing under sufferings, is likeways the comfort and support of good men at the time of their death.
2 Cor. i. 12. Our rejaicing, faith he, is this, the testimony of our comfcience, that in fimplicity and godly fincerity, we have had our converfation in the world. All the holy and virtuous actions of our lives are so many feeds of peace and comfort to us at the hour of our death, which we shall more sensibly enjoy, when we come to depart this life. For then the consciences of men are apt to deal most freely and impartially with them; and if our hearts do
zot then condemn us, we may have comfort and confidence towards God.
I believe there are some very pious and good souls, who have lived very disconfolate, and full of doubtings, and been under a cloud the greatest part of their lives, who yet upon the approach of death, and just as they were leaving the world, have broken forth, as the sun sometimes doth just before his setting. I know it is not always thus ; there are, I doubt not, some good men who go out of this world with little or no comfort ;
so soon as they step into another world, are encompassed with joy unspeakable and full of glory: and though the comfort of such persons be not so early and forward, yet it cannot chuse but be extremely welcome : and it must needs put a doubting and trembling soul into a strange kind of extasy and ravishment, to be thus unexpectedly surprised with happiness.
Secondly, Since this is so great and evident a testimony of the truth and goodness of religion, is it not a strange thing, and to be wondered at, that true religion and virtue should be so little practised, and impiety and vice should so generally prevail in the world, against so many bars and obstacles, and against such invincible objections to the contrary? Not only against our inward judgment and conscience, but against the general sense and experience of men in all ages, the conftant declarations and testimonies of dying men, both good and bad, when they are moft serious, and their words are thought to be of greatest credit and weight; against the best and sobereft reason of mankind, and their true interest and happiness; against the health of mens bodies, and, which is the most dear and valuable thing in the world, the peace and quiet of their minds; and that not only in the time of life and health, but in the hour of death, when men stand most in need of comfort and support: In a word, against the grain of human Dature, and in despite of mens, natural fears of divine vengeance, and to the defeating of all our hopes of a blessed immortality in another world, and against the inflexible nature and reason of things, by no art or en. deavour of man, by no colours of wit, or subtilty of discourse, by no practice or custom to the contrary, by
no conspiracy or combination of men, ever to be changed or altered ? So that we may say with David, Have all the workers of iniquity no knowledge, no consideration of themselves, no tenderness and regard to their present and future interest ? Nay, if there were no life after this, setting aside the case of extreme suffering and persecution, religion and virtue are certainly to be chosen, not only for our contentment in life, but for our comfort in death: And, if there be a state of happiness or misery remaining for men after death, as most assuredly there is, much' more in order to the attaining of that endless happiness, and the avoiding of that eternal and intolerable misery; O that men were wise, that they understood this, and would consider their latter end!
The usefulness of considering our latter end.
PS A L M So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our :
hearts unto wisdoni.
THE title of this psalm tells us who was the author
of it. It is called, A prayer of Mofes, the
man of God; or, as the Chaldee paraphrase more exprelly, The prayer which Mofes, the prophet of the Lord, prayed, when the people of the house of Israel finned in the wilderness. Upon which provocation of theirs, God, in great displeasure, threatened, and was immutably resolved, that they should all perish in the wilderness, and that none of the men that came out of Egypt, Caleb and Joshua only excepted, should enter into the promised land, but should all die in the space of forty years. Vol. VIII.
Upon this occafion, Mofes made this pfalm or prayer to God, being a devout meditation upon the shortnefs and frailty of human life, which was now. brought into a much narrower compass than in former ages. But the case of that people was different from that of the rest of mankind, being limited and confined to forty years. They might die sooner than that time; but that was the utmost bound of their lives, which done were to exceed; which seems to be the ground and reason of the petition which Mofes puts up to God in the text, So teach us, &c.
For I do not think that Moses does here beg of God, to reveal to every one of them the precise end and term of his life ; that might seem to faxour.of. too much pree sumption or curiosity : But since they knew that, according to the ordinary course of nature, the life of man was then reduced to ibreescore and ten, or four score years; and since God, by a peremptory sentence, had pronounced, that, [wo perfons only excepted, all that vast number which came out of Egypt, and even Moses himself, should die within the compass of forty years; it was a very pious and proper request, which Moses here puts up for himself and the rest of that people, that God would give them wisdom to make a right use of the notice which they had of their end, since it might happen at any time, but could pot reach beyond forty years, reckoning from the time of their coming out of Egypt.
To know the determinate time of our life, or to know certainly that our life shall not exceed such a term, (which was the case of the Israelites in the wilderness) is a very awakeping thing, and does commonly rouze men more than the general consideration of our own frailty and more tality. And yet, to a wise and considerate man, it ought, in reason, to be the same: For that which will certainly be, ought to be reckoned upon and provided for; and if iç be uncertain when it will be, whether at some distance, or the next moment, we ought prefently to take care about it, and to be always in a readiness for it, left we should be surprized and overtaken. And then this
us, as it was for Mofes and the Israelites, though we are not just under