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You must observe where your true strength lies, and apply yourself thereto.
You must not think the way to heaven easy, or any thing small that is between God and you.
You must eye them much who have served God fully in their day.
You must converse much with the greatness of God.
And then you must go to God to open and unseal your hand, improving all his gales. Now give me leave to lay some three or four motives before you that may persuade hereunto, and I shall wind up all.
The first motive is this, Look whatever work that is which is in the power of your hand to do, that God will require at your hand. If If you be a magistrate, and it be your work to preserve peace, to suppress the multitude of ale-houses, and profanation of the Lord's day, then God will require this at your hand. If you be a minister, and it be your work to "preach the gospel in season and out of season;" then God will require this work at your hand. If you he a parent, and it be your work to bring up your children in the nurture and education of the Lord; if you be a child or young person, and it be your work to stock yourself with principles of religion; then God will require these works at your hands. And if you be one of this town, and of this congregation, and it be your work to receive the gospel, and to improve your day of grace; then God will require this work at your hand. Remember the parable of the talents, &c. If God will require the work of our hands at our hands; why shall we not do that work with all our might? But
As God will call you to an account for all that work which is in the power of your hand: so you do not know how soon he may take your work out of your hands; how soon he may take you from your work, or your work from you. We ordinarily think that we shall not die before our work be done: but if you look wishly upon God's dispensations, you shall find that death doth sometimes press men from their shop-board, when much work is cut out before them. You all know what an useful man good king Josiah was as a magistrate, yet he died in the midst of his work, when he was but thirty-nine years old. Ye know what an useful man
John the Baptist was; yet he died in the midst of his days, when not above thirty three years old. Is it not known to some what a great workman Dr. Whitaker was here in England, of whom it was said, That he never was less idle, than when idle; yet he died in the midst of his work when he was but forty-four years old. It is ordinarily known what a blessed instrument Mr. Perkins was, of whom the preacher said at his funeral, Here lies that blessed Perkins, who first taught England for to worship God: yet he died in the midst of his work, when he was but forty-seven years old. And who hath not heard of Dr. Preston, what a great workman he was in God's vineyard, of whom I may say, Who though dead, yet speaketh, in his precious books that are amongst you; yet he died in the midst of his work when he was but forty-one years old. I might instance in Mr. Burroughs, and others; yea, in divers good christians in this place, who have died in the midst of their work and time. It was not long since a preacher now in heaven preached on this text at the Guild at Norwich at the installment of the mayor; and before the year came about, the mayor died. So that death doth sometimes press us from our shop-board before our work be made up. And I pray mind the text a little, "Whatever is in the power of thine hand to do, do it with all thy might:" for, says Solomon, "In the grave there is no work nor device, whither thou goest." He doth not say, whither thou shalt go, or whither thou must go, but "whither thou goest." You go sometimes to church, and sometimes not; you go sometimes to sea, and sometimes not; you go sometimes into the country, and sometimes not: but whether you go to the church, or whether you go to sea, or whether you go into the country, still thou goest to the grave. And ye know what Christ saith," The night cometh wherein no man worketh." Now if the night cometh, and thou goest; then why should you not do your work with all your might whilst it is day. Certainly he that plays away his day shall go to bed in the dark.
Who is there in all this congregation, that doth not desire a comfortable death-bed when it comes. As the heathen man said to a great congregation, I know all your thoughts; for every man desires to buy cheap, and to sell dear; so in
this respect, I may say, I know all your thoughts, viz., that when death comes, you may have a comfortable death-bed. In the time of your death-bed sickness, you will then be able to do little; when your pains shall be great, you will be able to pray little, to hear little, to read or meditate little, and then what will be your comfort in that death-bed-little but this? Well, though I can do but little now, yet I have prayed and served God with all my might when I was well, and therefore I have comfort now. Now therefore if you desire that you may have much comfort in your death-bed-little, why should you not do the present work of your hand with all your might? But,
In the last place, Who is there in all this congregation that doth not desire to rejoice with all his heart in these blessings which he hath in his hand; now look once more upen the words of the text, and ye shall find, that as Solomon in God's name commands you "to rejoice with all your heart in the blessings which you have," ver. 7-9, so in these words he commands you to do God's work with all your might. And why are these things thus knit together, but to teach us thus much, that whoever will do with all his might the work that is in his hand to do, he may and shall rejoice with all his heart in the blessings which he hath in his hand to enjoy? But above all ye know how fully Christ did your work for you, and will you do his work by halves? Never speak of rest here, there is rest enough in the grave, and recompence enough in heaven. Either the work that is in your hand is worth your while, or it is not; if it be not worth your while, why should you do it at all; and if it be worth your while, why should you not do it with all your might? And oh, that there were an heart in you all to do so. If the weight of this truth have fallen in power upon your souls, I dare say, some of you will go away and say, What have I done all this while? I confess I have done God's work by the bye, and when I heard ministers pressing such truths as these, I have said, Well, yet I hope I may go to heaven with less ado, but now through grace I will go away, and whatever is in the power of my hand to do, I will do it with all my might. Thus do, and I shall obtain the end of my preaching, and you, under Christ, shall obtain the end of your
practice, the salvation of your souls. Wherefore think on all these things and the Lord bless them to you.
SOUL-RESIGNATION INTO THE HANDS OF GOD.
Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit," LUKE xxiii. 46.
THESE are the last words of Christ on the cross, the seventh speech; and of all others the most exemplary for us. "Into thy hands," that is, into thy charge, care, and tuition. God hath no hands at all, for he is a Spirit; but by his hands we are to understand his keeping, charge, and custody. Numb. xxxiii. 1, it is said, "The children of Israel went forth out of Egypt with their armies under the hand of Moses and Aaron;" that is, under the charge of Moses and Aaron; so the translators do interpret it. For whereas, chap. xxxi. 49, it is said by the officers of the army, "Thy servants have taken the sum of the men that were under our charge;" the margin tells you that in the Hebrew it is, "under our hand." So Ps. xci. 11, 12, " He shall give his angels charge over thee, and they shall bear thee up in their hands." By the hands of God therefore, understand his keeping and tuition; Father, into thy keeping and tuition I do commend my spirit; the word is, wagadnooμa, I will commend; but our Saviour follows the Septuagint, and the Septuagint the Hebrew of Ps. xxxi., whence these words are taken. And it is ordinary with the Hebrew to put the future for the present time. I will, or I do commend my spirit, that is, my soul, myself, but especially my soul; the thing commended was his soul; the person to whom he did commend his soul, was his Father; the time when he commended his soul, was at the instant of his death, for having said so, he gave up the ghost. Now if ye ask why Christ did at this time especially commend and resign himself and soul up to God? I answer, For these reasons.
Thereby he testified that he had not lost his confidence in God as a Father; in the former words he had cried out and said, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?"
Men might think if he had so died, that he had quite lost his confidence; but now that he concludes all with this, it shews that God had not forsaken him, and that he had not lost his confidence in God. Possibly a dying christian may be in an agony at the beginning of his sickness, yet may sweetly believe at the last. In the former part of his death, Christ was in an agony, but he closes up all with full assurance of faith: "Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit."
Thereby also he did commend the souls of all those that he died for, into the hands of God: for he was now offering up himself through the eternal Spirit unto God for us, as our common person; and as in his prayer, John xvii., he did not only pray for himself, but for us, so in this act and deed he did commend the souls and spirits of all those that he died for, into the hands of God: and as he died in our room and stead, so in our room he said, "Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit." And when should he do this more fitly, than at the last of his suffering?
Thereby also he became an example unto us; that when we come to die or suffer, we should die with the Scripture in our hearts and mouths, for this was Scripture, as ye read Ps. xxxi. 5. And that we should suffer and die believing and resigning up ourselves and souls into the hand of God as a Father. And for this end certainly Christ did now speak these words, for says he, "I have power to lay down my life, and to take it up again ;" and if he had power to take it up again, why did he resign it into the hands of God, as a depositum to be kept for him? Surely for this reason, that in all this matter he might be an example unto us of soul-resignation into the hands of God. And so the doctrine is this:
It is a good thing for us to resign up our souls into the hands of God, and that especially at the time of our death and greatest sufferings; what Christ did, and did as our example, that is good for us to do: this hath Christ done before us; good therefore it is for us to do it, good at all times, especially at some times, and most especially at the time of our death and sufferings.
It is God's due, and it is our duty; for what is resignation of our souls or selves unto God, but that act of faith, whereby we do put ourselves under the power, wisdom, and mercy of God, to be ordered and disposed of according to the good