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and give up myself and soul unto God when I die, so as I may receive this depositum again to my comfort?
It is good for us to inquire into this matter; we know not how soon we may be called to this dying work. If the candle be newly lighted it may easily be put out, and if it have burned long it will easily go out. It was the desire of Dionysius, that Christ's last word on the cross might be the last word of his life.* Do you, therefore, desire to close up your life with this gracious resignation according to Christ's example? Then,
Be sure that you do not give away your soul from God to any thing else whilst you live. If you have given away your soul unto other things whilst you live, it will be a vain thing for you to say Christ's words when you come to die. When men come to their death, ye know they do ordinarily make their wills; and in the first place they say, I give my soul unto God; then if they have lands, or houses, or money, they give them to their wives, children, relations and friends, according to their pleasure. But suppose, now, that a man shall give land or house to such or such a child or friend, which he hath sold or given away before, shall his will stand in force? Will not all men say, This he could not give away, for he had sold that or given that before? So in regard of one's soul; though upon my death I say, As for my soul, I give that to God; yet if I have sold away my soul before, for unjust gain, or have given away my soul before unto filthy pleasures, how can I resign and give that to God when I die; will not the Lord say, Nay, this is none of your's to give, this you had sold or given away before? Oh, then, be sure of this, that whilst you live, you do not sell or give away your soul from God, for then death-bed resignation will be but as the act and deed of a man that makes his will when he is not compos mentis.
If you would so resign your soul unto God when you die, that you may receive this depositum again with comfort; then be sure that you make God your friend whilst you live, else what repose can you put on him when you die. Who doth trust a jewel in the hands of a stranger or enemy? We read, Judges x. 14, when the children of Israel had forsaken the
* Domine, fac ut ultimum tuum verbum in cruce, sit etiam ultimum meum verbum in hoc luce.-Gerard. ex Dionys. Harm. cap. xvii.
Lord, and served other gods, that when they cried to the Lord to save them out of the hands of their enemies, the Lord said unto them, "Go and cry unto the gods which ye have chosen, and let them save you in the time of your tribulation." So will the Lord say to us, if in the time of our health we follow after our pleasures and profits and our old sins, "Go and cry to the gods whom ye have served;" go and repose your souls in their hands, and let them help you now if they can. No man will repose or commit that which he prizeth into the hands of a stranger or enemy. Oh, then, whilst we have our health and life let us make God our friend.
And not only so, but get an assurance that God is your friend and Father: though God be our friend, if we do not know it, how shall we commit our souls to him when we die. Paul said, "I know whom I have trusted, that he is able to keep that which I have committed to him unto that day." It is an hard thing for a doubting heart that cannot say, Father, distinctly, to resign as Christ did. Why then should you live upon hopes mingled with uncertainties; is it not yet time to get your assurance? Oh, labour more and more to attain to these rises of assurance; for the more assurance you have when you come to die, the more easily and truly you will say, "Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit."
And if you would resign up your soul unto the hands of God, so as you may receive that depositum again with comfort; then observe what that depositum is which God doth now trust you with, and be you faithful in the keeping thereof. When Christ went away, he left us a depositum, he did leave and deposit some of his things in our hands; his truths, his ordinances, his talents; and if I do not keep his trust, his truths, his ordinances, his talents, how can I expect that he should keep my soul for me? Mark how these go together. "I know whom I have trusted," says Paul, “ and I am persuaded he is able to keep that which I have committed to him," 2 Tim. i. 12. Then ver. 14, "That good thing which was committed unto thee, keep." As if he should say, As we desire that he should keep our trust, so we must keep his trust. Some things the Lord hath committed to us; some things we commit to him. Now, therefore, as you do desire that he may keep your souls for you,
so do you keep his truths, his ordinances, and whatever he hath committed unto you.
And if you would be able to do this work of soul-resignation in the day of your death rightly, then use yourself to do it every day. That is easily done which is often done. And if you look upon the example of Christ, ye shall find, that as soon as he drew near to the cross, the first thing he did was to resign up his will unto God, being in his agony in the garden." If it be possible (saith he) let this cup pass; yet not my will, but thy will be done." And the last thing he did, was to resign up his soul unto God. This affliction was begun and ended with holy resignation. It is begun with a resignation of his will, it is ended with a resignation of his soul. So should all our afflictions be begun and ended with self-resignation; and if I can but begin my affliction with the resignation of my will unto the will of God, I shall end the affliction with the resignation of my soul into the hands of God. And the more frequently I do it whilst I live, the more easily I shall do it when I die, and say in truth with Christ," Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.”
Study the sovereignty of God. The more your heart is possessed with God's sovereignty, the more resignation. "It is the Lord," said Eli, "let him do what seemeth good," 1 Sam. iii. 18. And, "Good is the word of the Lord," said Hezekiah, 2 Kings xx. 19.
Then behold this example of Christ, being before you: "Whom beholding," &c. The sight of a resigning Christ, will make you resign and say, "Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit."
And thus now I have done with this last speech of Christ on the cross. The words of dying friends are precious, and we remember them. Now ye have heard this living saying of a dying Christ. You that are the friends of Christ will remember them; and the Lord teach us so to remember them, that thereby we may learn both to live and to die, both to do and to suffer.
THE DIGNITY AND DUTY OF GOD'S CALLED ONES.
"That you would walk worthy of God, who hath called you to his kingdom and glory."-1 THESS. 11. 12.
In this chapter you have a relation of the apostle Paul's entrance unto the Thessalonians, how they received him, and how he preached to them. "For yourselves, brethren, know our entrance in unto you, that it was not in vain: but even after that we had suffered before, and were shamefully intreated, as ye know, at Philippi, we were bold in our God to speak unto you the gospel of God with much contention," ver. 1, 2. It was with much sincerity that he preached : "Our exhortation was not of deceit, nor of uncleanness, nor in guile," ver. 3. In opposition to worldly interests: "Not as pleasing men, but God which trieth our hearts. For neither at any time used we flattering words, nor a cloke of covetousness; nor of men sought we glory, neither of you, nor yet of others, when we might have been burdensome as the apostles of Christ," ver. 4, 5, 6. It was with all gentleness and love: "We were gentle among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her children: being affectionately desirous of you, we were willing to have imparted unto you, not the gospel of God only, but also our own souls, because ye were dear unto us," ver. 7, 8. It was with much industry and labour: "Labouring night and day, because we would not be chargeable to any of you, we preached unto you the gospel of God," ver. 9. It was with all holiness of conversation : "Ye are witnesses, and God also, how holily, and justly, and unblameably we behaved ourselves among you that believe,” ver. 10. With all manner of exhortation : "As ye know how we exhorted, and comforted, and charged every one of you, as a father doth his children, that you would walk worthy of God," ver. 11. So here then you have the matter exhorted to, and the motive pressing thereto : "Who hath called you to his kingdom and glory." Or, here you have,
The person calling: "God."
The dignity called unto: "Who hath called you to his kingdom and glory."
The duty that flows from thence: "That you would walk
worthy of God, who hath called you to his kingdom and glory."
Hence observe, That it is the duty of all who are called to God's kingdom and glory, to walk worthy of the kingdom and glory of God. I shall therefore shew you,
First, What this vocation or calling is; and that there is that in it, that may and should provoke us to walk worthy of God.
Secondly, That when God brings home any man to himself, he doth it in a way of calling; and why so?
Thirdly. That it is the duty of all that are called, to walk worthy of God.
Fourthly, How a man shall know that he is truly called. Fifthly, What we should do, that we may walk worthy of God who hath called us.
First, This vocation is an act of God's grace and mercy, whereby we are invited to the great supper of the gospel, to communion and fellowship with Christ. As it is an act of God's grace and mercy, so it is opposed to works. "For the children being yet unborn, neither having done good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth," Rom. ix. 11. Calling is opposite to works. So 2 Tim. i. 9, "Who hath saved us and called us with an holy calling; not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace," &c. Vocation is an act of God's grace wholly.
Men are invited to the great supper of the gospel; that is, to fellowship and communion with Christ. "God is faithful, by whom you were called unto the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord," 1 Cor. i. 9.
If you look unto the persons that are invited to the great supper; Luke xiv. 16; Matt. xxii. 1, 2, 3, [that great supper is nothing but communion and fellowship with Christ] those that are invited, Matt. xxii. 3. are said to be called. "He sent forth his servants to call them that were bidden to the supper." And of those that refused to come, it is said, "Many are called, but few are chosen," ver. 14.
Only this invitation to communion and fellowship with Christ, is to be considered two ways. Merely and barely, as it is an act of God inviting by the word; or as it implies our answer or consent to that invitation. As when a man is