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actions, on which they lavish praise and write encomiums. We do not mean to speak at present of such crimes as the depravity of the world sometimes celebrates under the notion of heroical actions. Our reflection is of another kind. It is pretty clear, that depravity is general, and piety in the possession of a very few, when persons of superficial knowledge are praised for the depth of their understanding, and when such as perform very small and inconsiderable actions of virtue are considered as the wonders of the world. Sometimes I hear the world exclaim, What benevolence! What liberality! What generosity! I inquire for the evidences of these virtues, on which such lavish encomiums are bestowed; I expect to find another St. Paul, who wished himself accursed for his bre. thren, Rom. ix. 3. I hope to meet with another Moses, praying to be blotted out of the book of life rather than see his nation perish, Exod. xxxii. 32. But no, this boasted generosity and charity is that of a man, who distributed to the poor on one solemn occasion, once in his life, such a sum of money as he expends every day in prodigality and superfluity. It is that of a man, who bestows on all the members of Jesus Christ almost as much as he does on the walls of a room, or the harness of a horse. I hear the world exclaim in some circumstances, What friendship! What tenderness! I inquire for this tender, zealous, generous friend. I expect to find such an original as I have seen described in books, though I have never met with such an one in society. I hope at least to see one example of a friend saying to a dying man, appoint me your executor, and leave me your children to bring up, and your widow to provide for. But no, I find nothing but the friendship of a man, who by improving the fortune of another attracts the chief advantages to himself. I hear the world exclaiming in certain circumstances, What virtue? What purity? What a mother of a family ! Again I look for the object of these encomiums. I hope to see such a woman as Solomon imagined, a mother of a family, who makes her house a house of God, and her children patterns of piety. But no, I meet with a woman, who indeed does not defile the nuptial bed, who only doth not outlive her income, and who teaches her children only the little course of domestic economy. All these actions are praise-worthy. All these examples ought to be imitated. But is there any ground for exclaiming as if virtue had been carried to its highest pitch? Are these then such great efforts of religion ? Alas! My brethren, complete characters must needs be very scarce in the world, since the world is in raptures on account of these imperfect virtues; there must needs be a great dearth of wise men in the world, since there is so much boasting of one man, who takes only one step in the path of wisdom.
5. Consider mankind in regard to certain decisive occasions, which like touchstones discover their hearts. We do not know ourselves, we form false ideas of ourselves, when our virtues have not been brought to the test. We imagine, we incline to be patient, clement and charitable, in cases where we are not tried, where neither our fortune, nor our reputation, nor our honor are affected : but the moment a stroke is aimed at any of these the countenance changes, the brain ferments, the mouth foams, and we breathe nothing but hatred and vengeance. Nothing is more common among us than to talk highly of justice, to detest and censure iniquity, and to engage ourselves inviolably to follow such rules of equity as are marked out in the divine law. Let any man bring an action against us, with reason or without, and all these ideas vanish, we instantly become familiar with the very vices, to which we thought we had an invincible aversion. We disguise our cause, we suppress unfavorable circumstances, we impose on our counsel, we try to take even the judges by surprise, we pretend to make great matters of the importance of our rank, the worth of our names, the credit of our families, the tone of our voices, and all this we wish to incorporate in our cause. A disinterested spirit is always the subject of our utmost admiration and praise. A generous man is the admiration of all mankind, his noble actions unite all hearts, and every man is eager to give such actions their dignity and praise: but no sooner have we a little business to do, in which we have no kind of interest, but disinterestedness appears odious to us, and magnanimity seems to us more proper for a hero of a romance than for a man living and acting in society, and generous actions appear to us mere creatures of imagination. O how little does the multitude deserve consideration in regard to manners !
IV. No more ought they to be imitated in regard to the manner, in which they quit the world. Here I foresee, my brethren, you will all side with one another against our doctrine, and that we shall be obliged to blame both persons and things about dying people; such as are dying, such as surround them, such as visit them; in short, all are in disorder in the case before us. Almost every person that dies is canonized. If the light of christianity had not abolished deification, we should have filled heaven with saints and heroes and deified souls. Each house of mourning echoes with the praises of the dead, none of his looks towards heaven are
forgotten, not a sigh, not an ejaculation hath escaped notice. The funeral convoys of persons the most worldly, whose hearts had been the most hardened in sin, are all uttering orations in praise of the dead. For our parts, my brethren, we, who have seen a great number of sick people, and attended many in their dying hours, we freely grant, that the salvation of many of them is probable. We have hardly seen one, whose salvation we quite despair : but how seldom have we been inclined to say, while we saw such people expire uttering the language of the most eminent saints in scripture, Let us die the death of these righteous people, and let our last end be like theirs ! Numb. xxiii. 10. I will give you a short list of general mistakes on this subject.
The first mistake is this. Most sick people are ingenious to diguise the danger of their illness. Be not conformed to this world. Whenever a dangerous illness attacks you, be aware of your condition, and let each say to himself I have not long to live, at least this may be my last illness. My brethren, this supposition is never unseasonable, we are in little danger of being deceived by thinking death at hand, for the numberless accidents, to which we are exposed, justify the thought. , Is there any thing extravagant, pray, in affirming that sickness added to all these accidents renders the near approach of death highly probable ? · The second mistake is this. Most dying people put off the regulation of their temporal affairs too long. Be not conformed to this world. You should take patterns from better models both for reasons of affection, and reasons of prudence. True affection to a family engages a man to preclude in favor of his heirs such troubles and divisions as are the inseparable consequences of an, undivided or perplexed estate. Prudence, too, will foresee, that while our minds are all occupied about temporal affairs, a thousand ideas will intrude to disturb our devotion. Do not wait till the last moment to settle your affairs, to make your will, to dispose of your family, and be not so weak as to imagine that the discharge of these necessary duties will hasten your death. Employ yourselves wholly about the state of your souls, and let each say to himself, since I have been in the world I have hardly devoted one whole day to devotion : since I have been a member of the church I have been exercised about affairs which interest the whole society : but now that I am come to the end of my life, now I am passing out of this world, now that I ain going where I shall have no more portion for ever in any thing that is done under the sun, disturb me no more, ye worldly ideas; thou fashion of this world passing away, appear no more in my sight: ye wild fowls, interrupt my sacrifice no more.
The third mistake is this. Most dying people delay sending for their ministers till the last moment. They would have us do violence to the laws of nature, they set us to exhort trunks, to instruct carcases, to prepare skin and bones for eter. nity. Be not conformed to this world. Why should ye delay? Is there any thing odious in our ministry? We do not bring death along with us, we do not hasten its approach : if we denounce the judg. ments of God against you it is not with a design to terrify you, but to free you from them, and to pull you out of the fire, Jude 23.
To these I add a fourth mistake. Most dying people think it a duty to tell their pastors of excellent sentiments, which indeed they have not, and they are afraid to discover their defects. When death makes his formidable appearance before