« PreviousContinue »
hid from us, both the time of the general judgment, and of our particular fummions out of this world, that we might never be onpravided for the main chance, for that which may happen at any time, and which will come gern us for ever.
HI. The mediration of our larter end should put us up on minding the great businefs of our lives with all out might, and make us very vigorous and industrious in it; I mean, the bufinefs of religion, and the salvation of our fouls. And if we set up this, as in reason we ought, fot the great end and design of our lives, and the train scope of all our actions, it will make our lives of a piece, and every part thereof agreeable to itself: Because our mind will stand continually bent one way, and all our thoughts, and cares, and endeavours, will be united in one great and and design.
And it will oblige us to great diligence and industry and make us work hard, to think how great a work we have to do, and how little time to do ir in; perhaps much less than moft of us do imagine. It is not an eafy work for a man to become good, and fir for heaven; it requires time, and care, and great watchfu'ness over ourselves, gleat ftrugglings, and many ai confia with the evil inclipations of our minds, which, after we have conquered them, will often rally and make head again ; a ftové reb faltance of temptations, a ftiff and obftinate resolution not to yield to them, and a patient continuance in well-doing. The confideration whereof should make us very careful and diligent to get oil into our lamps; that is, all those graces and virtues, all those good dispositions which may fort us for another world, and prepare us for eternity; it fhould make is very vigorous and industrious to do all the goud we can, while the opportunity of doing it is in our hands, and to make ourfélves as good as we can, because this is the time arda season' of laying the foundation of our future happiness, and increafing the degrees of it; for as we sow. so malt wéi reapa: he that forvethSparingly, skall reap Sparingly; and be that forus plentifully, l'alt reap plentifully. Every degree of virtue and goodness that we attaio toj in this world, will meet with a suitable
'reward, and a more resplendent degree of glory and happiness in the next life.
And we shall have this advantage by a great industrý and diligence in working out our own salvation, that, if we have made religion the great care and business of our lives, we thall have nothing to do when we come to die, but to renew our repentance for the errors and miscarriages of our lives, and to beg God's pardon and for giveness of them, for the sake of the meritorious obedience and sufferings of our blefsed Saviour; to comfort ourselves in the goodness and promises of God, and in the glorious hopes of the happiness which we are ready to enter upon; and, in the mean time, to exercise faith and patience for a very little while till death put an end to the förrows and miseries of life.
IV. The meditation of our latter end should make us much in the exercise of repentance, and to renew it frequently; because we continually offend God, and provoke him every day, if not by sins of commission, yet of omis. fion and neglect in one kind or other, and by the imperfection of our best actions and services; if not by prefumptuous fios and against knowledge, yet by manifold fins of ignorance and infirmity; so that the best of us may say with David every day, who can understand his errors ? cleanse thou me from secret fins. If thoi should be extreme to mark what is done amiss, O Lord, who can stand?
'Thus, by exercising a daily, or, at least, a very frequent repentance, we may keep our accounts in a good measure even, and not to be in a hurry and confusion when we come to die, neither knowing where to begin our repentance, nor how to go through with so great a work in so short a time, and in circumstances of so much weakness and distraction. There are hardly any of us, espea cially of us who are ministers, and have frequent occasion to attend upon fick-beds, but have seen several in these wretched circumstances, not knowing what to do, desirous to repent, but what, through weakness of body, and horror and confusion of inind, not knowing how to go about it, lamenting their neglect of it in the time of their health, and despairing of doing it now with any success and acceptance. These are sad spectacles indeed, and
ought to be loud warnings to us who are in health, and have the opportunity of repentance before us, to make use of it, and to set about this neceffary work out of hand, to-day, whilf it is called to-day, left any of us be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin, and be ac last brought into those miserable straits which I have been der scribing, and which no man that understands himself would be in for all the world.
V. The meditation of the shortness and uncertainty of life should make us great husbands of our time, as that which, next to our immortal fouls, and for the sake of them, is the most precious and valuable thing in the world. For as, on the one hand, nothing will comfort us more when we come to die, and leave this world, than the rep membrance of a well-spent life, carefully employed in the service of God, and for the benefit and advantage of men; so, on the other hand, there is nothing for which our consciences will more bitterly reproach us at that time, and dy in our faces with greater fury and ragė, than for an uselefs and anprofitable, especially if it have been likewise (as is too commonly seen) a wicked and vicious life.
Our life is uncertain, and, therefore, we should seize the present time, and improve it to the best advantage, though it be but fort in itself, and very fhort in respect of the great and long work which we have to do in it. To prevent, or cure the manifold distempers of our minds, and to preserve our souls in a good state of health, and to keep them free from the disorders of our appetites and paflions, requires a wife conduct, and a very careful management of ourselves. Evil and inveterate habits are pot mastered and mortified in an instant; for the contrary virtues attained, in any measure of perfection, but by long practice, and flow degrees. There must be time; and patience, and perseverance, for the doing of thefe things, and we must give alt diligence to add 10 our faith knowledge, and to our knowledge virtue, and one virtue to another, and one degree of virtue to another; and no thing, without this, can minister true comfort to us in the hour of death, and make us to lift up aur baada with joy in the day of judgment.
The consideration of this should make us careful not to neglect any occasion of doing good, or of making our selves better; and restrain us from allowing too much of our time to those great- wasters and devourers of it, diversions and vifits': Because they do not only hinder us from better work and employment, but are apt insensibly to work us off from that ferious temper of mind, which becomes those who do in good earnest design for another world.
VI. The meditation of our latter end should make us always to prefer the doing of our duty, and the keeping of a good confcience, to all temporal considerations what soever, whether of fame and the good opinion of men, or of wealth and riches, of honour and dignity, of authority and power, chusing rather, with Mofes, to suffequi afflictions with the people of God, than to have the teme porary enjoyments of fin.
And as for pleafure, there is little in this world that is true and sincére, besides the pleasure of doing our duty, and of doing good; I am sure none that is comparable to it. A good conscience is a continual feaft; and he-cer. tainly pleaseth himself beft, and is moft easy in his own mind, who is conscious to himself that he endeavours, as well as he can, to do what he ought.
VII. The meditation of our mortality should teach us the true price and value of all temporal enjoyments, and make us duly affected towards them, and to lit as loose to them in our affections as we can; for nothing surely can be more apt to beget in us a coldness and indifference towards the enjoyments of this world, than the confideration of the uncertainty of all these things, and of the fhortness and uncertainty of our OWN lives.
Or, if we suppose that they and we both should continue for some number of years, yet there will be an end of them or us ; and nothing is to be reckoned a lasting happiness, that will have an end, though it should be long firit: For, where there can be either sorrow or an end of our joy, there can be no' true felicity.
Besides, that the nature of the things of this world is such, that they afford but little happiness to us whilft we have them; we cannot do well without them, and,
yet, we can hardly do well with them.
Most of the enjoyments of this world, as desirable as they are to us, are very dangerous, and are always attended with some inconvenience or other; and, even when we have all that we can wish for in this world, we are apt to be ftill uneasy, either something troubles us, or nothing pleases us ; we are pained with fulness, and cloyed with the long enjoyment of the best things this world can give us. Why then should we fet such an high and unreasonable value upon these temporary, enjoyments, and be so much concerned for those things of which we have so flippery a hold, and so Nender an assurance, and which afford us so very little contentment and satisfaction when we have them, and yet give us so much grief and trouble when we lose them ? Considering how foon we must, and how suddenly we may, leave this world, and all the enjoyments of it, we ought, in reason, to set no great price upon them.
VIII. The consideration of the shortness and uncer. tainty of our lives should make us contented with our present condition, and patient under all the evils and aħlictions which may befal us in this world. A little may content us for a little while, for the short time of our abode here; and, since we do not expect our rest and happiness in this world, we cannot think ourselves disappointed if we do not meet with it. If our condition be tolerable, it is well, and we have reason to be contented with it, since it is as much as this world usually affords. If it be very mean and strait, it cannot last long: and even that confi. deration should filence our murmurings, and should reAtrain and check our discontent.
And it should make us patient likewise under the greatest evils and amictions of this present life, to confi-; der, that they will shortly have an end; either they will give off of themselves, or they will carry us off, and make an end of us, and all the patience we have exercised. will be rewarded far beyond the proportion of our suffer. ings,